VeeKay grabs podium after strong performance in Alabama
Rinus ‘VeeKay’ van Kalmthout has taken his first podium finish in the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series, the 21-year-old Ed Carpenter Racing driver crossing the finish line in third in the fourth round of the year, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
VeeKay had travelled to Alabama in good spirits, as in the first three rounds of the IndyCar season the young Dutchman had been performing very well. In the opening race in St. Petersburg, VeeKay finished sixth while three weeks later he took tenth at the Texas oval, saving fuel. In the streets of Long Beach, the location of the third round, it proved difficult for the Ed Carpenter Racing team to hold its own but nevertheless, VeeKay managed to come away with a bunch of points from California.
At Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, where VeeKay took a sixth-place finish in 2021, the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, resident was looking to improve on his best performance of the season so far. VeeKay got off to the best possible start by setting fastest lap times in both free practice and qualifying before the #21 SONAX Chevrolet driver grabbed first place on the starting grid for the second time in his short IndyCar career.
The twisty and unforgiving Barber Motorsports Park was right up VeeKay’s alley, as from pole position, the Dutchman easily controlled the field. Once dropped, his nearest rival Patricio O'Ward was unable to close within a second of his rival, and with a planned two-stop strategy in mind, VeeKay reeled off lap after lap. After 60 of 90 laps, VeeKay had already led 56.
However, the talented twentysomething’s course to victory was disrupted when shortly before the duo made their second pit stop on lap 62, a backmarker allowed O'Ward to make up time on VeeKay. Moreover, the pit stop battle turned out to the advantage of the Mexican driver who after changing tyres and topping up for fuel, reappeared right behind his Dutch rival. VeeKay had to surrender the lead, later also giving up second place to strategic stopper Álex Palou.
In the third and final stint of the race, VeeKay was kept busy consolidating third place, which would earn him his fourth podium finish in a year and a half. Challenging veterans Will Power and Scott Dixon were unable to close the gap on VeeKay’s Carpenter car to the point where they could attempt to overtake. As a result, the Dutchman maintained his third position until the finish, allowing him to stand on the podium alongside O'Ward and Palou.
“It went really well, I was in the lead for a long time and managed to save a lot of fuel”, VeeKay commented from Alabama. “At the second and last pit stop it was actually kind of a drag race from the pit lane and unfortunately I lost. I was a bit too conservative with the brakes on my outlap and that’s where I lost time, allowing Pato to overtake me.”
“A shame, but normally I should be the happiest racing driver in the world. It is fantastic to be able to enjoy a podium ceremony once again, because it has taken a while. All in all, this was a particularly good weekend for us and, above all, a promising start to the important Month of May.”
“Of course, it’s better to be slightly disappointed because I’ve just come up short of a race win, rather than finishing somewhere at the tail of the midfield runners. Ed Carpenter Racing has always done a good job at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and I'm really looking forward to going there. Last year I won at the Road Course and was on the front row for the Indianapolis 500. Let’s see if we can do even better this year”, concluded VeeKay.
The next race in the 2022 NTT INDYCAR Series is the GMR Grand Prix at the Road Course of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This race was won by VeeKay in 2021. The race will take place on Saturday, May 14 with a start around 9:15pm Dutch time.