Rinus Veekay claims first Indycar victory with dominant performance
Rinus 'VeeKay' van Kalmthout has scored his first ever IndyCar victory. In the GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, the 20-year-old driving for the Ed Carpenter Racing team worked his way up from seventh on the grid to finish first.
On the famed Speedway’s infield circuit, VeeKay was on top of his game all weekend, the Dutchman running consistently in the top-three in practice. Therefore, seventh on the grid came as a slight disappointment, as VeeKay had hoped to gain a spot in the Fast Six during Friday night qualifying, but narrowly missed out.
As a consequence, the Dutchman decided to put things right in Saturday's race. At the start, ECR teammate Conor Daly crashed out allowing VeeKay to move up into sixth, while a three-stop strategy starting on the hardest of two available Firestone compounds helped VeeKay surge to the front.
As always, VeeKay combined a bold strategy with daring overtaking moves. In his first ‘home race’ of the year, the Indianapolis resident pulled off a breathtaking move at one point as he passed competitors on his left as well as his right in one go.
At the first of three pitstops, VeeKay was handed the soft Firestone compound, after which the Dutchman quickly proceeded to gain time on the frontrunners. After his second visit to the pits he was able to attempt an attack for the lead, and the rookie polesitter, former F1 driver Romain Grosjean, seemed easily beaten. From lap 49 onwards, VeeKay had the upper hand – with nobody in front of him, the driver of the #21 SONAX Chevrolet steadily built his lead over the opposition.
A slick final pitstop, with the ECR team doing an excellent job, allowed VeeKay to maintain and defend his lead. In the closing stages of the GMR Grand Prix, raindrops began to fall, causing the track to get damp in places, but the additional challenge failed to deter VeeKay, as the 20-year-old crossed the finish line first after 85 physically demanding laps. He is the third Dutchman in IndyCar history to win a race.
“This was the perfect day”, VeeKay said from Indianapolis. “This win is for the Ed Carpenter Racing team, for my loving family and for everyone who cares about me. I am so incredibly happy! My parents are with me through thick and thin, they are always there for me and I am so grateful. Without them I would not be standing here today.”
“It was a mega race! Everything fell into place today, from the green to the finish flag. After the last of my three pitstops I realised I was actually going to win the race. From then on I focused on keeping out of trouble, saving fuel and not doing anything stupid. I didn't notice much of the rain. I saw some drops on the aero screen, but as I was already saving fuel I was able to be more careful. I saved the brakes and tried to get to the line in one piece.”
"The move on Palou and Johnson was nice, although I must say that Johnson's experience helped make that overtake possible. Palou and Johnson are teammates, so together they tried to play the clever game. But I saw a gap and decided to go for it – I also knew that an experienced driver like Johnson would not just close the door. Nevertheless, it was obviously a very good feeling to complete such a pass.”
“The first one is in. I've been dreaming of this moment for years, and I'm extremely happy that I managed to win an IndyCar race and join the likes of Arie Luyendyk and Robert Doornbos. Hopefully there will be many more IndyCar wins, starting in a fortnight!”
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway will remain the NTT INDYCAR Series’ battleground in the coming weeks, as on Sunday, May 30, the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Presented by Gainbridge will take place at the Speedway. Practice starts next Tuesday, May 18, and qualifying sessions are on Saturday, May 22 (for everyone) and Sunday, May 23 (Fast Nine and Bump Day).