ECR returns to Indy this weekend eyeing a May repeat

INDIANAPOLIS — The last time Ed Carpenter Racing competed on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, the team emerged victorious. Rinus VeeKay scored his first career win in mid-May at the GMR Grand Prix. Conor Daly also had one of the quickest cars in the field, making his first Firestone Fast 6 appearance in qualifying. Both are aiming to replicate their speed and expand on their success as they return to IMS for the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix.

The NTT INDYCAR SERIES will take center stage this Saturday on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile circuit at IMS for the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix. It will be one of three major events this weekend as the NASCAR Xfinity Series also will compete Saturday and the NASCAR Cup Series will race on the IMS road course for the first time Sunday, Aug. 15. The track layout incorporates portions of Turns 1 and 2 and the frontstraight of the famed oval with the remainder of the circuit throughout the infield.

All eyes will be on VeeKay this weekend after his breakthrough win in May. He was fast all weekend, finishing 3rd, 2nd and 1st in the three practice sessions before the race. VeeKay started the GMR Grand Prix from the 7th position on Firestone’s black Firehawk tires, allowing him to complete the race on the alternate red tires. He used the extra grip from his second set of reds to pass pole sitter Romain Grosjean on Lap 44, which would prove to be the decisive move of the race. The No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet paced the field for 33 laps, taking the lead for good on Lap 65 of 85. The 20-year-old earned his first career NTT INDYCAR SERIES win by almost a five-second margin.

“I am very excited to get back to the Indy road course,” VeeKay said via a team release this week. “Looking at our history on this track, this is a perfect opportunity to fight for the win again and get back to grabbing good points after a few tough races.”

VeeKay won in May, can he repeat this weekend? Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media

VeeKay will also race in the same No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet he won with in May.

In addition to his first victory, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is home to several of VeeKay’s career milestones. In just his second NTT INDYCAR SERIES start in July of 2020, VeeKay earned his first Top 5 finish on the road course. When he returned to IMS in August, he recorded the best qualifying result by a teenager in Indianapolis 500 history (4th) and was the fastest rookie in the field. In October, he won his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES pole position, led the first laps of his Indy car career and earned his first podium finish on the road course. One week after winning the 2021 GMR Grand Prix, he became the youngest front row qualifier in Indianapolis 500 history. He started 3rd and went on to lead 32 laps, the third-highest of all drivers in the field.

For Daly, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is truly his home track as he was born and raised in nearby Noblesville, Ind. Last July, he made his first start with ECR on the IMS road course. When he returned this May for the GMR Grand Prix, he advanced through each round of qualifying and made his first career Firestone Fast 6 appearance. After being taken out in Lap 1 incident, Daly looked for redemption on the IMS oval the following week. His U.S. Air Force Chevrolet was consistently one of the fastest cars as he turned Top 5 lap times in five of six practice sessions prior to the Indianapolis 500. On race day, Daly took the lead of the 500-mile race for the first time in his career and led 40 laps, the most of all drivers.

“I’ve been looking forward to returning to the IMS road course basically since Lap 1 of the race in May,” he said. “We had one of our best qualifying sessions of the year, the car was really strong and my teammate won the race. We know we have good cars there and we have to be able to continue that in a slightly different time of the year. Hopefully we are able to do that, stay at the front and compete for a podium. That’s the goal! We came close to one in Nashville. It’s time to aim as high as we can and execute at the highest level to be able to bring home some trophies and points for the team.”

Of the three NTT INDYCAR SERIES races at IMS this year, this will be the first that Daly competes in with his B-2 Spirit car. The design celebrates the U.S. Air Force’s B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. A dramatic leap forward in technology, the bomber represents a major milestone in the U.S. bomber modernization program. Its low-observable, or “stealth,” characteristics give it the unique ability to penetrate an enemy’s most sophisticated defenses and threaten its most valued and heavily defended targets.

So far this weekend, they been stout. Daly qualified in eighth and VeeKay ninth.

“It was a pretty good day for us today,” said Daly. “Our cars are quick here again. We qualified 6th in May and 8th here today, with our teammate in 9th. We have a good racecar, we just want to not get taken out on the first lap! I’m just really happy to have gotten a good qualifying result here. It’s so much easier starting at the front than at the back.”

VeeKay wasn’t as happy though. He spent much of the one-hour practice session earlier at the top of the charts, settling for the 2nd position. In qualifying, he lost speed via a lack of grip.

“I am bummed. We had really good pace in practice, but all of a sudden I was struggling to find any grip in the car and it was tough to keep the car on track. We’ll look at it tonight and get heading back the right way tomorrow.”

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