VeeKay shares sixth place in Indycar standings thanks to strong performance in st. Petersburg
Two races into the season, Rinus 'VeeKay' van Kalmthout is sitting in a stunning sixth place in the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series standings. Scoring his second consecutive top-ten finish in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, this time the 20-year-old Dutchman crossed the finish line in ninth.
VeeKay, who was driving the #21 Autogeek Chevrolet this weekend, had eased into a seventh slot on the grid on Saturday. The young Dutchman, who had to settle for 14th on the grid in Alabama last week, was pretty self-critical despite his sensational improvement, as in his own eyes a place among the ‘Fast Six’ would have been possible. Nevertheless, the Ed Carpenter Racing team was very much satisfied with its Dutch youngster’s qualifying result.
On Sunday morning, VeeKay again showed that he was feeling comfortable on the street circuit of St. Petersburg, Florida, the Rookie of The Year of the 2020 IndyCar season setting a fine fifth fastest time.
Then, in his trademark fashion, VeeKay shot out of the blocks at the waving of the green flag signalling the start of the race. The Dutchman immediately passed one of his rivals to settle down in sixth position, which he defended tooth and nail. VeeKay, however, was increasingly powerless as the first stint wore on, his soft tyre – the so-called reds, the alternative compound – entering its degradation phase. This meant that shortly before making his first pit stop VeeKay lost several places.
The new rubber – the primes, or hard compound from Firestone – offered the solution. Thanks to some clever racing and a fine race pace, the Dutchman managed to work his way back to the front, and after the third of three neutralisations, the ECR driver found himself in tenth, which he subsequently converted into ninth after a successful pass on rival Sébastien Bourdais, so as the chequered flag dropped, VeeKay found himself in ninth. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was won by VeeKay's contemporary Colton Herta.
With VeeKay finishing among the best both last week and this weekend, he currently holds a strong shared sixth place in the IndyCar 2021 season standings. The standings are currently led by Alex Palou, the winner of the first race, who crossed the finish line in 17th at St. Petersburg.
“It was a tough, physically demanding race,” VeeKay said afterwards. “Considering our race pace and the course of the race, I am satisfied with ninth. I made one small mistake during the first stint, on the soft tyre, which forced me to come in for a tyre stop a little earlier than planned. In the second and third stint I had to save some fuel at times. For the rest I am satisfied – Ed Carpenter Racing was on top of things once again today, they did a great job!”
“Today in St. Petersburg was not our day, but fortunately we made the most of it. I spoke to team principal Ed Carpenter shortly after the race – he thought it was very important that I score a good amount of points. On days like these you have to try and make the most of it. Last week, at Barber Motorsports Park, we may have been able to do more than we did today.”
“It was proven once again today that the NTT IndyCar Series is so competitive. The midfield was incredibly close despite the tough conditions. Even the fittest and most experienced drivers had trouble dealing with the muggy weather. It was really hot!”
“Next week my team owner Ed Carpenter will be racing the #20 USAF Chevrolet again, as the first oval races of the year are coming up. We have already had a very promising test at Texas Motor Speedway, a track that is very challenging to IndyCars. Overtaking is very difficult there, but I feel good about it. It's time for payback in Texas where last year my debut was tough!”
VeeKay won’t have to wait for long to race at Texas, as the Genesys 300 is scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 1, with the XPEL 375 held one day later. Both races will be held at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.