Top 10 starting spot feels like a pole for VeeKay at Barber, details

Rinus VeeKay knows what it’s like to win a pole at the Barber Motorsports Park. He did so just last year. VeeKay earned his second career NTT P1 Award on the 2.3 mile track in 2022 and started from the pole position. He led 57 of the 90 laps last year before settling for a third-place finish. In his two starts at Barber, VeeKay has not finished lower than 6th.

So, when he says Saturday feels like a pole win, I take him for his word. While he didn’t go back-to-back in regards to a pole and didn’t even make the Fast Six, to get a top 10 starting spot has the Dutch driver smiling heading into Sunday’s Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix (3 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network).

VeeKay, earned his first Top 10 starting position of the season today, qualifying 9th at Barber Motorsports Park. He finished 6th in Round 1, Group 1, which gave him a position in Round 2. His quick lap of 1:06.1222 will place him on the inside of Row 5 coming to tomorrow’s green flag. 

“I am proud of the guys,” VeeKay said. “We have been struggling this weekend, so making it into the Top 10 almost feels like a pole position. This morning I was 20th while pushing hard, but we made a big jump forward. We have a fast car now. Really, our race pace has been good all three races this season, we’ve just had a bunch of bad luck and not had the results. We also haven’t been able to put it together in qualifying, but this time we did! The team worked really hard and it paid off.”

VeeKay only qualified 24th, 26th and 19th previously this year. He’d finish just 21st, 11th and 26th. That has him deep down in 22nd in points coming into this weekend. So, to potentially get a top 10 and his season turned back around has him excited.

“Well, we’re definitely not happy,” VeeKay said. “It’s been so far disastrous in results. Definitely not where we want to be. We know we have pace. Long Beach wasn’t where we wanted to be. Texas, there’s still room to improve. I think we really had the pace to race there in Texas.

“In St. Petersburg, we were third, sixth in practice, something goes wrong in qualifying. At the end of the race we were fighting for sixth place again.

“I think we have all the cards on the table to do better, to get back to last year’s results. We just have been a bit unlucky. I think Barber, Indy road course, Indy 500 are those places where I can climb back up and get back to where we belong.”

Momentum here could be key. That’s because he has a potential for a strong Month of May ahead too. After Barber is the Indy road course. His first career pole came on that 2.439-mile track in 2020 while his first career win came in May 2021 too. After that is the Indy 500 for which VeeKay has two consecutive front row starting spots and qualified fourth as a rookie in 2020. His teammate Conor Daly led the most laps in 2021 and was sixth a year ago.

If VeeKay can snag some momentum this weekend and capitalize on results at Indy, he could very well be back into the thick of things heading to Detroit in June. On the flipside, if he doesn’t, then he very well could slide further backwards and into an endless abyss of dismal results leaving the most important month of the year.

“Yeah, no, definitely. The sequence of races is where we have always been competitive and where we basically have an opportunity to win. That’s really good,” he said.

“I knew past races, especially Long Beach, was going to be a hard one for us. But it’s nice to get into some races and have a lot of confidence that we can do well.

“Also the morale of the team. I think it’s important we get good results. If we get there, fight for the win, we make it happen, at least we got to be at the front of the field now.

“Yeah, it’s going to be tough. Everyone is very fast. I think there’s more fast cars than last year at the track in the INDYCAR SERIES. You give it all, I think we can really change our season with these few weekends.”

The Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix will be a milestone event for VeeKay as he makes his 50th NTT INDYCAR SERIES start tomorrow. The 22-year-old has spent his entire NTT INDYCAR SERIES career with Ed Carpenter Racing and is the team’s longest-tenured full-time driver, now in his fourth season behind the wheel the No. 21 BITNILE.COM Chevrolet. 

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