With four wins and 12 podiums in hand during his first Indy Lights season, Juncos Racing’s Rinus VeeKay isn’t looking to return to the top step of the Road to Indy ladder.
The 18-year-old would need a miracle to overcome Andretti Autosport’s Oliver Askew to earn the Indy Lights title, but for those who’ve seen the young Dutchman drive, there’s little doubt as to whether he’s ready for an NTT IndyCar Series graduation in 2020.
Two races remain on the Indy Lights calendar in Monterey; Askew simply needs to start both races to clinch the championship and earn the three-race IndyCar prize that comes with the achievement. For VeeKay, adding to his win tally is the goal, all while preparing for the next phase of his career by solidifying where he’ll drive in IndyCar next season.
“For now, I think the next week we’ll be talking to all those guys and then further in Laguna, it’s going to be a big focus, show A-class performance from myself, and show the IndyCar teams what I can do,” he told RACER.
VeeKay completed his first IndyCar test last month at Portland with the Ed Carpenter Racing team, where he was among the fastest drivers on a day that had Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and other front-running drivers in attendance.
While Askew has, rightfully, garnered most of the attention in Indy Lights this year, VeeKay’s successful IndyCar test at Portland helped raise his profile in the IndyCar paddock in powerful ways.
“I’ve got now quite a few teams that show a lot of interest in me,” he said. “After the IndyCar test I walked around the track in Gateway and a lot of people know me now. It’s a lot different. It takes longer to get somewhere!
“Also, fans and people that know a lot about IndyCar, they start to acknowledge me and I think they are hopefully looking forward to seeing me in IndyCar next season, like I do.”
As the 2018 Indy Pro 2000 champion, VeeKay has carried Mazda’s Soul Red livery all season with Juncos Racing. The car also wears branding from his sponsor Jumbo, Holland’s second-largest supermarket chain, and with its enthusiastic support of Dutch Formula 1 star Max Verstappen, the company is expected to play a key role in helping VeeKay reach IndyCar.
Although his destination in the big series has yet to be named, the links to ECR have only strengthened since the Portland test. Carpenter spent time during last weekend’s Portland Grand Prix on pit lane observing Indy Lights qualifying, and during Sunday’s IndyCar race, VeeKay’s tall frame was impossible to miss on the ECR timing stand as he listened to driver Ed Jones and his engineers throughout the 105-lap contest.
Whether it’s with ECR or another capable team, VeeKay is confident the grandstands will see plenty of orange on display as Dutch fans in America embrace his IndyCar journey.
“I think it will be a lot,” he added. “If you look at Max Verstappen, he has a whole orange army behind him and even in the Belgian GP, it’s all orange. So that’s something I would like to take over a bit here and I think it’s been such a long time since there’s been a Dutch driver in IndyCar, and especially a winning Dutch driver.
“I think if I can really put the Netherlands in the spotlight here, I think it will help. It’s a small country, but everything goes super quick. It’s way easier to get your whole army behind you in the Netherlands, and we will see IndyCar grow a lot there. I think it’s getting better and better too with media following IndyCar in the Netherlands. I’d like to be the guy that fans at home want to follow in IndyCar.”