Rinus VeeKay earned a reputation as one of the Indy Lights series’ hardest chargers in 2019, and with his first shot at qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, the teenage pride of Holland sent another reminder of the talent he’s working with after earning fourth on the grid and the top spot for Team Chevy.
Once the Fast Nine session was over, Ed Carpenter Racing’s rookie came within 0.022mph of capturing a front-row start in the Indy 500’s field of 33.
“It was a great qualifying,” VeeKay said. “Wind was a little tough, got a little loose in the last lap, but I stayed flat through all the four laps and that was my aim. And I think as the only Chevy being fourth, it’s amazing.”
The 19-year-old’s first IndyCar season has offered glimpses of the promise shown in Indy Lights, but when it comes to ovals, VeeKay’s had more than his fair share of struggles. Constant lapping since Wednesday on the Speedway has clearly helped build his confidence for the 500 miles that await the No. 21 Chevy next Sunday.
“I know we have a good race car,” he added. “It’s the hardest thing to say as a rookie. That’s my goal. Of course, it’s your goal, but you’ve got to be realistic. It’s the Indy 500. Anything can happen. So yeah, I try not to think about it because it will only distract me, but yeah, I think we’re getting close.”
With two Indy 500 veterans to lean in Ed Carpenter and Conor Daly to lean on for advice, look for VeeKay to receive plenty of coaching ahead of the race. Provided Carpenter (16th) and Daly (18th) move forward from their mid-pack starting positions, ECR’s three-car effort could demonstrate its full potential.
“I think (Ed) can teach me everything,” VeeKay said. “He has so much experience there. Even Conor has so many starts here. It’s very valuable for me and yeah, it’s just great to have such a team with such teammates and engineers around me, that have so much experience that they bring all that experience over to me.”