VeeKay satisfied with mighty comeback race on Texas oval
By making up no less than 15 positions from his slot on the starting grid, Rinus ‘VeeKay’ van Kalmthout has managed to finish the second race of the NTT IndyCar Series in 11th place. Throughout a chaotic race at the Texas Motor Speedway the 22-year-old Dutchman succeeded in keeping his cool.
With his rock-solid 2022 performance in mind, VeeKay had a good feeling about this year’s first oval race held at the circuit where he once made his IndyCar debut. However, his qualifying pace for the PPG 375 proved to be less hopeful. Having been instructed by his employers Ed Carpenter Racing to complete his qualifying lap in a certain gear, VeeKay could reach no higher on the grid than 26th.
Nevertheless, VeeKay used both hands to grab the challenge of guiding his #21 BitNile Chevrolet to the front. At the start of the 250-lap race at the Fort Worth, Texas speedway, the 22-year-old Dutchman immediately managed to work his way past a handful of rivals to end up 21st after twenty laps. Some balance adjustments suggested by the Dutchman and made during his first pit stop subsequently proved to have a very positive effect on his car’s handling.
Races at Texas Motor Speedway are always a guarantee for excitement and spectacle, and the 2023 edition did not disappoint in that respect, as no fewer than five times the race was forced into a full-course yellow because of one or more drivers having crashed. Despite all the debris flying around, VeeKay failed to be perturbed, as the one-time IndyCar race winner deftly guided his car past his rivals’ machines. In fact, an immaculately executed second pit stop by the Ed Carpenter Racing crew put the youngster on track for a spot in the top ten.
It was a stunning performance considering the extreme competitiveness of the IndyCar field. Even at Texas Motor Speedway, the gaps, especially in the midfield, proved to be minimal. Entering the fourth quarter of the race, VeeKay found himself in a superb ninth place but during several caution periods was forced to relinquish the spot. As so often, the full-course yellows brought about several strategic opportunities for which some drivers paid the price.
As a result thrown back to 13th place, VeeKay did not leave it at that, as in the closing laps of the season’s second IndyCar race the Dutchman once again managed to move his gold-and-white car further upfront, this time towards P11. After his St Petersburg incident, VeeKay was happy to take it, as the accompanying 19 championship points have promoted the ECR driver five spots up in the battle for the IndyCar title.
“Considering my starting position I am perfectly happy with 11th,” VeeKay said from Texas. “The race went well, although it was chaos on the track. It felt like we were 28 cars in a washing machine, it was that tight! Throughout the entire two-hour race it was never boring for a moment, with continuous action around me. I am very happy with the outcome. Too bad it’s just short of the top ten, but we can build on this result.”
“While some drivers were easily able to attack the higher racing line, I had to keep my car on the low line. We simply didn’t have the balance to go up, so I was vulnerable there. Fortunately, the low line worked so well that I was still able to fight my way to the front. Just before the last FCY I was driving side by side with Helio Castroneves, who eventually finished tenth. So without that last yellow more was up for grabs.”
“During my first stint I noticed that with some adjustments the car was able to compete, and after we made those adjustments I made up a lot of ground. By taking advantage of free air I was able to make up a lot of time. We removed downforce correctly throughout the race, which gave me more and more straight-line speed. This gives us plenty of hope for the most important oval race of the year, the Indianapolis 500!” VeeKay said in fighting spirits.
The next race in the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series will take place in exactly two weeks’ time as on Sunday 16 April the legendary streets of Long Beach, California will serve as the battleground for the third round of the season. The race in Long Beach will start around 21:30hrs Dutch time.