Faultless VeeKay goes unrewarded through strategic setback at Portland
He didn’t put a wheel wrong, but Rinus ‘VeeKay’ van Kalmthout still had to settle for 17th place in the 14th round of the 2021 NTT INDYCAR Series. The 21-year old Dutchman’s efforts were undone by the unfortunate timing of a caution period at Portland.
The short and tight Portland International Raceway in Portland, Oregon was the first venue in the season-ending triple header on the United States’ west coast, as the two-day race weekend saw Ed Carpenter Racing driver VeeKay struggle to get going. To make matters worse, the youngster who celebrated his 21st birthday on Saturday was forced to change the Chevrolet engine on his car, leaving the Dutchman to start the race from 25th on the grid.
From there, VeeKay once more showed his racing prowess by staying out of trouble in a messy start of the Grand Prix of Portland. The Fort Lauderdale, Florida resident passed no less than nine rivals in the first combination of corners to be 14th after the opening lap. This became P9 when five drivers were penalised for their involvement in the first-lap melée. VeeKay was able to hold his own during the first stint, making his first pit stop from the front of the midfield pack.
In the game of strategy at Portland International Raceway, the timing of caution periods proved vital in terms of scoring a good result. For VeeKay, one of those neutralisations worked out badly. The 2020 Rookie of the Year was called in for a second stop after 44 of the scheduled 110 laps but eight laps later the yellow flag came out for an on-track incident, the opportunity handing many of VeeKay's rivals a ‘free’ pit stop.
From that moment on, it was damage control for VeeKay who could only rely on his flawless driving skills. In the fierce midfield battles VeeKay repeatedly showed his muscle and emerged victorious on a regular basis. Despite having completed more than twenty passes, the ECR driver had to settle for 17th at the drop of the chequered flag.
“I would have loved a bottle of champagne as a birthday present, but we'll have to put that off until next week or the week after,” VeeKay said from Portland, maintaining a sense of humour. “It sounds crazy for someone who finishes 17th but I had real good pace today. The start was fantastic and I could fight with almost everyone.”
“My failing to finish in the top-ten was purely down to the timing of the cautions. Especially the second neutralisation was unfortunate. I had just come in for a pit stop when the rest still had theirs coming, so my rivals all got a free pit stop. As far as set-up is concerned, perhaps we could have trimmed down a little less downforce, as tyre wear was just a little too much.”
“My race otherwise went fine and I did exactly what was asked of me. I am convinced that without those yellows I would have finished well up in the top ten, but it was not to be today. I hate having to settle for a place outside the top ten yet again, but I know there is nothing wrong with my pace. That's why I'm really looking forward to next weekend at Laguna Seca, which is one of my favourite tracks on the calendar!”
After 14 out of 16 races in the 2021 NTT INYDCAR Series, VeeKay who participated in 13 of those 14 races, has accumulated 291 points, the Dutchman currently holding 12th place in the IndyCar standings.
The penultimate IndyCar race of the season takes place this Sunday, September 19 at the legendary WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. VeeKay has won every race there so far (two of them) in which he has competed. The start of the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey will take place around 9:30 pm Dutch time.