Three top-ten finishes in four Indycar races for Rinus VeeKay
With ninth place in the second race of the weekend at the Texas Motor Speedway, Rinus 'VeeKay' van Kalmthout has scored his third top-ten finish in four races. The 20-year-old Dutchman can look back on a challenging weekend in the Lone Star State, one that ended in a positive way.
The Texan race weekend was a doubleheader with the Genesys 300 and the XPEL 375. VeeKay got to start eighth in the first race, the Genesys 300 - a three hundred mile race (212 laps) on Saturday evening (local time). The Rookie of The Year of the 2020 IndyCar season was assigned this starting position due to the entrant points, as the NTT IndyCar Series organization had to cancel qualification because of the weather conditions.
In the opening stages of the Genesys 300, VeeKay was able to compete with the best in his # 21 SONAX Chevrolet, even in a strong fifth place at some point. However, a top ranking was not possible: the protective casing of one of the wishbones of the right front tire had come off, causing a parachute effect in a lightning-fast oval like that of Texas. As a result to this problem, VeeKay’s car could no longer compete with the top speeds. To make things worse, the Dutchman lost two laps due to a neutralization, which followed shortly after his pit stop. This gave most other drivers a 'free pit stop'. Twentieth place turned out to be the maximum possible, in a race won by Scott Dixon. VeeKay dropped from eighth to twelfth in classification due to Saturday's result.
"It may sound crazy, but it actually went very well during the first race", VeeKay analyzes afterwards. "I had a good pace and was able to compete in the front. Unfortunately a cover element of a wishbone arm came loose, probably because I drove over some fragments. This caused a snowball effect: because I finished in P20, I lost places in classification. Meaning that I had to start further back on the grid on Sunday. "
For the second showdown on Sunday afternoon (local time), VeeKay had to start from twelfth. Because there was no qualification for the XPEL 375 either, the standings in the championship (entrant points) were again determinative for the formation of the starting grid.
The start of the XPEL 375 was startled by a serious accident involving no fewer than seven of VeeKay's opponents. VeeKay managed to stay ahead of the crashing mob, so the Ed Carpenter Racing team decided to try an alternative strategy once again. This threw VeeKay back to the back positions. During the race, they decided to let go of the alternative strategy, as the timing of neutralizations forced them to follow the path of the other teams.
In the 248 laps of the second race, VeeKay gradually gained momentum. During his final stint, the Dutchman drove to a neat ninth place, one which he held until the finish. As a result, VeeKay reached his third top-ten finish in four races - a unique achievement for a driver who is currently not in the top-six of the IndyCar standings.
“Overtaking at Texas Motor Speedway is very difficult with these cars, and I didn't want to take any unnecessary risks,” VeeKay recalled the second race. "I watched the race again and saw the daring overtaking maneuvers of the drivers in front. After my test crash at Indianapolis I didn’t want to lose a car again. This circuit is not suitable to take risks".
"All in all I am satisfied - three top-ten finishes in four races is a great start, better than last year. I can deal with the disappointment of last weekend's first race, because I know I didn't make any mistakes myself. The result was beyond my control and I did what the team told me to do, so I can look back with a good feeling."
VeeKay now has a break, after four races in fifteen days. The next showdown is scheduled for Saturday, May 15. "I like that for now. It was really intense to fly from Alabama to Florida and to Texas and also do four races. I am going to empty my head next week and recharge for the races in Indianapolis."
Last year, VeeKay excelled on the road course of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the track on which the next race in the NTT IndyCar Series will be. In July 2020, the Dutchman finished in a beautiful fifth place, in October he scored his first pole position and podium place. "Overtaking on the Indy road course is doable. I hope to score my first IndyCar victory this year and I think I have a good opportunity on this circuit!"
VeeKay has collected 84 points after four of the seventeen scheduled IndyCar races, taking eleventh place in classification. Scott Dixon leads the standings with 154 points, VeeKays teammates Conor Daly and Ed Carpenter have 43 and 33 points respectively.
After this opening salvo of races, the drivers of the NTT IndyCar Series are given a break. No race this weekend, on Saturday May 15 the action continues with the GMR Grand Prix on the road course of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This will be followed up by practice and qualification for the 105th Indianapolis 500 Presented by Gainbridge, which will take place on Sunday, May 30th.