MADISON, Ill — Rinus VeeKay had a relatively quiet rookie season heading into this month. He crashed early in practice at Texas in what was his first career NTT IndyCar Series start. 36 laps into the race, he crashed again.
That made team owner Ed Carpenter pretty upset with his young driver. He said he didn’t really follow his advice and was pushing too hard. With a month off to think about it, VeeKay showed his talents. He finished fifth in the Indy GP on July 4.
In Road America, he was 13th and 14th respectively. At Iowa, he had a top five car but had bad luck in getting run over on a restart by Colton Herta on Lap 156. So, with a rebuilt car overnight, he was conservative and came home 17th a night later.
Then came August.
VeeKay wowed us all with being quick all month long in Indianapolis. He became the fastest teenager ever on the famed speedway with qualifying fourth for last Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. Unfortunately, a rookie mistake in the pits cost him a top 10. He’d hit a pit crew member and get penalized early as a result. He never rebounded and finished 20th.
In Gateway, he excelled on both days. No one passed more Dallara’s than the Dutch rookie. He passed 13 cars on Saturday and 16 more on Sunday, 11 of which in the first stint alone. So, for a track to where drivers all said would be tough to pass on, VeeKay shined. He passed 29 cars in two days of action.
On Saturday, VeeKay started 14th. He would finish sixth. On Sunday, he came from 18th to a career best fourth.
“Stellar race! We were on our way to the podium, I think, but that yellow kind of screwed me,” said the rookie driver on Saturday. “I kept my chin up and had a great car to make passes with. The No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet was great in the second lane when there were no marbles.
“I’ve learned luck really isn’t our thing, but we did the best we could with the circumstances. It did get a little sketchy on the last run; I almost lost it a few times. It was 200 laps of experience today and some good points. I’m very happy and I am looking forward to tomorrow.”
He was aggressive again and it paid off on Sunday’s finale.
“It was a great race, one of the best races I have ever driven,” he continued. “Yesterday, I started 14th and finished sixth, so today, starting 18th,
“I was aiming for a top-10 finish. I had an amazing first lap, got around a lot of guys. The strategy was brilliant, so shout out to my team for making this possible. Those last few laps were very tough; everyone was all over the place. Just missed out on the podium, but I don’t care about that right now. P4 was the best I could do.”