Another front row start for VeeKay at the Indy 500
For the second year running, Rinus ‘VeeKay’ van Kalmthout will start from the front row of the grid for the Indianapolis 500. After the 21-year old Dutchman’s phenomenal run on Saturday to qualify for the second section, he worked his way into the third section on Sunday, where he grabbed a stunning third.
From his very first lap at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, VeeKay displayed a feel for the absolute limit on the unforgiving oval, the talented twentysomething storming to an excellent fourth position on the grid in his debut year (2020) while underlining his skills at Indianapolis with third place on the 2021 grid.
In fact, VeeKay was tipped to take the coveted pole position after averaging 233.655 miles per hour in a four-lap qualifying run on Saturday morning (local time). In the recent past, Ed Carpenter Racing, whose owner Ed Carpenter has already set fastest qualifying time for the legendary Indy 500 three times (2013, 2014, 2018) was hoping that VeeKay and Carpenter himself would once again be able to feature well up front.
They succeeded brilliantly. After the first runs on Saturday, the fastest twelve of a total of 33 entries earned permission to return on Sunday for the Fast Twelve session. From there, the fastest six were promoted to the Fast Six. Pole position was at stake in the latter segment.
In the Fast Twelve session, VeeKay behind the wheel of the #21 Bitcoin Racing Team with BitNile Chevrolet posted another staggering average, the single NTT IndyCar Series race winner lapping the Indianapolis Motor Speedway four times at an average speed of 233.429 miles per hour, or 375.668 kilometres per hour. That speed proved good for a stunning second place and promotion to the Fast Six.
In the battle for pole, the minnow Ed Carpenter Racing team proved as strong as ever. Of the four competing cars, all entered by superpower Chip Ganassi Racing, VeeKay and Carpenter held off two while the pair – led by VeeKay, who posted a four-lap average of 233.385 miles per hour or 375.597 kilometres per hour – defended the honour of engine supplier Chevrolet. The result was that VeeKay became the fastest Chevrolet driver in qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 for the third consecutive year.
“I’m pretty proud”, VeeKay said shortly after the Fast Six session from Indianapolis. “The four laps in the Fast Six session were my four best laps of this qualifying weekend. Of course, the average speed was a bit higher on Saturday, but the conditions were a bit more favourable then as well. As far as the set-up of my car was concerned, it felt a bit better today (Sunday). Compared to the Fast Twelve, we took out a little bit of downforce and shifted the balance towards understeer. That worked great.”
“This definitely doesn’t feel like missing out on pole position. Remember there are 33 drivers participating in this event and I get to start from the front row. Scott Dixon was out of this world today and Ganassi did an amazing job. I’m proud of Ed Carpenter Racing, and that I’m in such good shape for the third year running, and that the team is on the front row for the fifth time in six years. We knew it would be tough against the Hondas, as the Chevrolet engine is more powerful over one lap, but has a little more degradation over a four-lap run.”
“Starting in P3 is fantastic, but of course the race is not until next Sunday. On top of that, we have to do 200 laps of two-and-a-half miles, in which anything can happen. I'm really looking forward to it and will do my utmost to earn that bottle of milk”, VeeKay concluded in fighting spirit.
In the battle for the NTT IndyCar Series title, VeeKay has done good business. As the best places on the grid for the Indianapolis 500 are rewarded with bonus points for the championship, VeeKay has moved up from tenth to ninth in the standings.
The action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway continues with a two-hour practice session on Monday afternoon (local time) and the traditional Carb Day practice, which takes place this Friday. This Sunday, May 29, the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge is scheduled to get underway around 6:15 pm Dutch time.