We’re here. The final three races of the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season will all take place on the West Coast, beginning with this weekend’s Grand Prix of Portland. As the Portland International Raceway event was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s race will be Rinus VeeKay and Conor Daly’s first with Ed Carpenter Racing at the Pacific Northwest road course.
While it’s not Daly’s first race ever there, he’s classifying it as one.
“I still have not raced in Portland – I’ve qualified in Portland in 2019 and qualified quite well, which was exciting,” he said. “Hope to qualify well again, but make it past the first corner this time! We’ve had a lot of really consistent results lately and seem to be improving every single race. We want to keep that going! This will be my first time at Portland with ECR, so there will be a lot of new things for us but I am just very excited to start the West Coast swing.”
Before joining Ed Carpenter Racing prior to the 2020 season, Daly had grown to become one of the most trusted reserve drivers in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The 2019 Grand Prix of Portland was one of the events Daly was called upon for as Schmidt Peterson Motorsports selected him as the substitute driver for the No. 7 car. Despite never having driven a lap at Portland International Raceway prior to the event weekend, Daly qualified solidly in the 9th position. Unfortunately, he was unable to show his pace during the race as he was collected in a Turn 1, Lap 1 multi-car incident.
Daly though, enters the Grand Prix of Portland weekend coming off a string of solid finishes. His 2021 season mirrors that of 2020, where he competes in the road and street course events in ECR’s No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet and in Carlin’s No. 59 for the ovals outside of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Daly transitioned to ECR’s No. 47 for the Indianapolis 500 and was consistently one of the fastest cars during the Month of May, turning Top 5 lap times in five of six practice sessions. On Lap 50 of 200, Daly took the lead of the 500-mile race for the first time in his career. He would go on to lead 40 laps, the most of all drivers. Earlier in the month, Daly made his first Firestone Fast 6 appearance in qualifying at the IMS road course.
In the case for VeeKay, he celebrates a big milestone this weekend. This will be his 21st birthday. While he’s a rookie in the series at Portland, this isn’t his first time there.
His first taste of an NTT INDYCAR SERIES car came in August of 2019 when ECR selected him for an evaluation test at Portland. It was the first of two successful tests before he was named full-time driver of the team’s No. 21 Chevrolet, a role he has now held for two seasons. While climbing the Road To Indy ranks, VeeKay competed in the 2018 Indy Pro 2000 doubleheader and a 2019 Indy Lights doubleheader at Portland. In those four races, he earned four pole positions, one victory and three runner-up finishes.
“I am very excited to go to Portland, really the whole West Coast,” said the second year Dutch driver. “These are the last three races of the season and three races where we can get back to good results. I had a nice few weeks of letting my mind take it easy, but I am ready to get back to racing again!”
VeeKay’s sophomore NTT INDYCAR SERIES season was off to a strong start as he earned six Top 10 finishes in the first seven races of the year, including his first career victory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in mid-May. One week later, the 20-year-old became the youngest front row starter in Indianapolis 500 history as he qualified 3rd. VeeKay added a podium finish on a street course to his list of accomplishments with a second-place finish in Race 1 of Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix. The driver of the No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet will turn 21 on Saturday, September 11.