Rinus VeeKay clinches Indycar Rookie of the year championship in St. Petersburg
The 2020 NTT INDYCAR Series season finale at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be one to remember for Rinus VeeKay. Having built up a commanding lead in the hotly contested Rookie of the Year Championship throughout the season, all the Dutchman had to do was start the 100-lap race around the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., on Sunday afternoon.
VeeKay yet again proved his speed and composure on the challenging Florida street-course. With a single practice session to get up to speed, VeeKay and his Ed Carpenter Racing made it into the Fast 12 in Qualifying just a couple of hours later, where he would eventually qualify ninth for the season-finale.
At the start of the 100-lap season finale, Ed Carpenter Racing and VeeKay quickly decided to opt for a different strategy to most of the field, going aggressive in the opening stages. Pitting earlier than most, VeeKay benefited from a full-course yellow to vault himself into fourth place a third of the way into the race. However, the joy was to be short-lived as VeeKay was collected by series debutant Scott McLaughlin on a restart following two caution periods. Having sustained damage in the incident, VeeKay lost two laps and fell to the back of the field. Not to be deterred, the Rookie-champion continued his aggressive driving, eventually bringing the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet home in 15th.
Going into the final race event of 2020, there was speculation about where 20-year old VeeKay might be racing next year. On Sunday morning, the speculation was brought to an end as VeeKay was confirmed with Ed Carpenter Racing for the 2021 NTT INDYCAR Season. The team and driver pairing was a revelation throughout the 2020 season, not only winning the Rookie of the Year Championship, but scoring a pole position at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, leading 15 laps, securing three Top-5 finishes and finishing 14th in the Championship.
"I am very happy to be back with Ed Carpenter Racing in 2021!" proclaimed the Jumbo, KNAF TeamNL, Sonax, Autogeek, La Place and Basic-Fit supported driver . "I feel like an entirely different driver than I was at the beginning of the year. The team has been so patient with me and given me every opportunity to learn as much as possible. I have a great group of guys around me and I can't wait to have that same amazing support next year."
Team owner Ed Carpenter shared similar enthusiasm about VeeKay rejoining the team for the 2021 season.
"The 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES is one that we will never forget," stated Carpenter. "With all the challenges that have been presented, limited track time and schedule changes, we have seen Rinus progress rapidly from the start of the season until now. It is clear to us that he has all of the tools to be a winner at this level and we look forward to climbing the podium together."
With the season finale now concluded, VeeKay and Ed Carpenter will look to use the condensed off-season to continue its momentum. The 2021 season will kick off right where the 2020 season ended, on the streets of St. Petersburg on March 7.