What a difference a day makes. On Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, talented Dutchman Rinus VeeKay struggled with Andretti Autosport pair Robert Megennis and Oliver Askew in the first Indy Light presented by Cooper Tires race. But on Saturday, in cool and breezy conditions, VeeKay seemed almost in a class of his own. The teenager qualified his Juncos Racing Dallara-AER IL-15 on the pole and never looked back in the 35-lap race. His final victory margin was an emphatic 6.8849 seconds.
Canadian Zachary Claman finished a relatively lonely second for Belardi Auto Racing, earning the Tilton Hard Charger Award after starting sixth, while yesterday’s top two, Askew and Megennis, finished in that order following an entertaining scrap for the final podium position.
At the start, Megennis looked to continue his impressive weekend by challenging for the lead on the long run to Turn One, running side by side with VeeKay through the first couple of corners. But VeeKay kept him at bay, defending the inside line vigorously along Hulman Boulevard.
Moments later, the Dutchman most likely heaved a sigh of relief when he glimpsed Megennis running wide onto the grass and falling all the way to sixth.
In fact, Megennis might have lost several more positions had not Ryan Norman (Andretti Autosport) and David Malukas (BN Racing) clashed while attempting to go three-wide with a fast-starting Claman disputing third place at Turn One. Consequently, Claman found himself all the way up in second at the completion of the first lap, chased by Askew, Englishman Toby Sowery (who also made a strong start for BN Racing-Team Pelfrey), and Canadian Dalton Kellett (Juncos Racing).
Claman and Sowery, in third and fourth, exchanged fastest laps through the opening few stages, but VeeKay remained out front and before too long was able to put some distance between himself and the combative Claman. The Juncos Racing driver then proceeded to turn a series of fast, consistent laps to gradually extend his advantage.
Behind, Askew had his mirrors filled by the distinctive bright yellow BN/Pelfrey car of Sowery for the first 10 laps before gradually inching away.
Megennis, meanwhile, made short work of Kellett, then used his AER turbo motor’s push-to-pass feature to take fourth place from Sowery at Turn One on lap 18. Next in his sights was Askew. The two teammates were together with seven laps remaining, and it didn’t take long for Megennis to make his move on the front straight. Askew attempted to defend the inside line entering the braking area for Turn One, but video reviews clearly showed the move was an instinctive reaction to Megennis’ feint to the inside, and soon afterward Race Control made the call for Askew to relinquish the position.
Askew did so along Hulman Boulevard on lap 33, but fought back almost immediately, taking advantage of his own P2P activation to draw up behind Megennis and then squeeze down the inside under braking for Turn One.
Sowery had to be content with fifth, finishing well clear of Malukas, who profited when Kellett spun in Turn 13 on lap eight.
Instead of easing home to the victory, VeeKay stamped his mark on the proceedings by setting the fastest race lap on the very last lap. His second win of the season moves him back into the championship lead by one point over Askew as the teams now prepare for their biggest race of the season, the Freedom 100 Presented by Cooper Tires, on the series’ biggest stage, the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval on Carb Day, May 24.