Rinus VeeKay’s NTT IndyCar Series debut at Texas Motor Speedway was memorable for the wrong reasons. After crashing out on his 12th lap of the 30-minute rookie session in the afternoon — while he was setting the pace — the 19-year-old Dutchman was snakebitten once again in the early stages of the race.
On Lap 37, VeeKay’s No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet got out of the groove in Turn 2, which had proven to be treacherous throughout the day. Despite his best efforts to hang onto the car, he drifted up even further and scrubbed the outside wall lightly upon corner exit. From there, the momentum carried him backwards across the track and left facing oncoming traffic. The right rear of VeeKay’s car then collided with the right rear of fellow rookie Alex Palou, which caused enough damage to end the day for both drivers. VeeKay finished 22nd, just ahead of Palou in 23rd.
“I got a little too high going around Santino (Ferrucci),” said VeeKay (pictured above), who finished runner-up in the 2019 Indy Lights championship. “I lost the rear in the marbles and I eventually got collected by Alex. Very, very unfortunate. I expected my debut to be a lot different, but I have to say, sorry to the team and, yeah, let’s work on it. Hopefully, get better, way stronger.”
Palou, who was also making his series debut in the No. 55 Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh, was just starting to get comfortable and running around 14th prior to the incident.
“Yeah, that was a shame,” said Palou. “I was having a lot of fun getting up to speed and comfortable with the car. Today’s been good so far, until that crash. We weren’t really strong in qualifying — I was getting comfortable with the car with the tools during the race. It’s a shame, but I guess that’s oval racing. I’m learning it the hard way.”
VeeKay ran a combined total of 47 laps without incident between both practice and the race. However, it was the two bad laps that ultimately had the biggest outcome on his maiden IndyCar weekend. Now, he’s left to think of what could have been until IndyCar’s next race, which is slated for July 4 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
“Very limited time,” said VeeKay. “A lot of learning for me. Unfortunately, I crashed twice, which is really all the blame on me. I’m going to sleep and think about it for a month. I will be back in Indy very strong.”
Following his fifth-place finish, team owner/driver Ed Carpenter didn’t shy away from relating the advice he’d offered that his rookie driver failed to listen to.
“Everything I told Rinus to do, he didn’t really do, which was being patient, be careful,”said Carpenter, driver of the No. 20 ECR Chevrolet for the oval races. “Best thing I told him before the race was to stay out of the marbles. We’ve got a little work to do there on the sponginess of him, but he can drive the car. He was going forward, with virtually no practice and having never run an oval IndyCar race.
“He’s going to get there, but it’s going to be challenging. We still love him.”