VeeKay signs multi-year deal to stay with ECR, why next year needs to be a breakout one for him

INDIANAPOLIS — Rinus VeeKay was able to start negotiating with the other NTT INDYCAR Series teams in the paddock on Aug 1. That’s part of his current contract language. On Aug. 4, he has a new contract with the same team that took a chance on him in 2020.

He didn’t even last 72 hours on the open market and while other rides are currently opening up, VeeKay decided to stay home. Ed Carpenter Racing announced on Thursday that VeeKay will remain the driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet for the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season and beyond as part of a multi-year agreement. The Dutch drivers’ name was linked to the possible open seat at Chip Ganassi Racing but the 21-year old wisely elected to not string ECR along and potentially not only miss out of the No. 10 Dallara-Honda for Ganassi but get replaced with ECR in the process as they were allowed to discuss the No. 21 Dallara-Chevrolet seat too.

VeeKay joined ECR prior to the 2020 season and has spent the entirety of his Indy car career with the Indianapolis-based team. He will compete with them for a fourth consecutive year next season.

“I am very excited to continue with Ed Carpenter Racing for what will be my fourth year in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES! Ed Carpenter gave me the opportunity to drive for the team when I came out of Indy Lights and has let me showcase my talents in an Indy car ever since,” VeeKay stated. “The continuity at ECR is great, there have barely been any changes in my time here and it’s very nice to have the same group of people around me all the time. We have been stepping up our game every season and with the support of Todd Ault and BitNile, we can really move forward as we head into 2023.”

Raised in Hoofddorp, Netherlands, Rinus van Kalmthout began karting in 2009 at the age of 8. With sights set firmly on the pinnacle of North American open wheel racing, he transitioned to the Road to Indy in 2017 and launched his U.S. career driving as Rinus VeeKay. Just four years later, VeeKay not only reached the NTT INDYCAR SERIES but earned the 2020 Rookie of the Year honors. The following season, he joined the ranks of NTT INDYCAR SERIES race winners with his first career victory on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. 

ECR team owner Ed Carpenter watched VeeKay’s progression through the Road to Indy, which included one championship, two second-place finishes in points standings, 16 wins and 36 podiums in just 48 races. Carpenter selected the Dutch driver for his team in late 2019 and VeeKay has been with ECR for every race since.  

Rinus VeeKay is primed for a nice future with ECR. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

“I am so happy to be able to extend our relationship with Rinus, he is an extremely versatile and talented driver,” stated Carpenter. He continued, “It has been and remains our hope to build our team to new heights with Rinus helping lead the charge.  Our goals and expectations are to win races and to compete for championships. With Rinus’s growth and the support from BitNile and Todd Ault, we are primed for success.”

VeeKay is midway through his third season as an NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver and continues to build on his impressive resume. In addition to his Rookie of the Year title, his debut season included his first pole position and first podium finish. Two weeks after his first victory in May of 2021, he started on the front row of the Indianapolis 500. He replicated that in 2022, again starting from the 3rd position. VeeKay has been the fastest Chevrolet-powered driver in the field for each of his Indianapolis 500 starts. He also earned his second pole position this season, this time at Barber Motorsports Park, where he took the checkered flag in 3rd. VeeKay has put together a string of strong results in the recent summer stretch, finishing in the Top 6 in three of the five races that took place in July. 

VeeKay is grateful for the support he has received.

“I really want to thank Ed, Tony George, Stuart Reed for giving me the opportunity to continue with ECR. The entire team deserves my gratitude, everyone out in the race shop that works so hard every day to make me fast on track.” He continued, “We still have a season to finish this year, but it’s great to know future plans. It motivates me, the team and everyone around us to get more great results before we focus on next year!”

VeeKay is the longest-tenured full-time driver in Ed Carpenter Racing’s 11-year history. Since its inception in 2012, ECR has raced exclusively in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The team has shown its versatility by earning eight wins across each style of track the series competes on – street and road courses, short ovals and super speedways. ECR boasts 40 Top 5 results to date, 24 of which have been podium finishes. For 10 of the team’s 11 Indianapolis 500s, ECR has had at least one car qualify in the first three rows. An ECR Chevrolet has sat on the front row eight of those years, including three pole positions by Carpenter (2013, 2014 and 2018). 

Which is why VeeKay has to be due for a breakout season in 2023. It’s time. Each year we keep saying this is it, but VeeKay cools off as the stretch of the year goes on.

In his sophomore season (2021) he had 6 top 10 finishes in the 1st 7 races run including that win at Indy. Over the final 8 races though, he never finished inside the top 15. I wondered how much his broken shoulder had something to do with the dip in results.

This year, he had a similar start. VeeKay had 3 top 10’s in the 1st 4 races run including a pole at Barber and another front row for Indy. He dipped though after.

He crashed and finished last in the Indy 500. He was 16th and 17th respectively afterwards at Belle Isle and Road America.

Once we got to July, he’s coming out of the valley again and heating back up. 3 of his last 5 finishes have been back in the top 10 again, each in the top 6 at that, which has caused him to rise back up to 11th in points. His best career points finish was 12th last year.

That’s why with his future solidified, it’s time to use that comfort and continue the ascension. Josef Newgarden is the best comparison. The Tennessee native spent 5 combined years between Sarah Fisher Hartman and Ed Carpenter Racing. Years 1-3 were with SFH with 2015 the combined year with SFH and ECR. 2016 saw him run for exclusively ECR.

His 3rd season he had 1 podium, 2 top 5’s, 7 top 10’s and 20 laps led. VeeKay has 1 podium, 3 top 5’s, 6 top 10’s and 94 laps led this year to which is Year No. 3 for him.

Newgarden’s 4th year is to when he broke out. He had 2 wins, 4 podiums, 5 top 5’s, 9 top 10’s and 345 laps led. That’s why Year No. 5 for him is to what led Newgarden to Penske for Year No. 6.

Newgarden’s 2016 season read 1 win, 4 podiums, 6 top 5 finishes, 11 top 10’s and 313 laps led. He went from 7th in points in 2015 to 4th in 2016.

If VeeKay continues on this trajectory, he could be in a similar situation Newgarden was in by time his final contract was up with ECR.


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