VeeKay storms to first-ever IndyCar victory at Indy GP

Michael Levitt/Motorsport Images

VeeKay storms to first-ever IndyCar victory at Indy GP


VeeKay storms to first-ever IndyCar victory at Indy GP


The NTT IndyCar Series’ amazing season of breakthroughs and surprises continued at Round 5 where Rinus VeeKay became the latest first-time winner after an epic drive to deliver the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy to Victory Lane at the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis.

Overtaking polesitter Romain Grosjean near the halfway point of the 85-lap contest, the 20-year-old from Holland placed his stamp of authority on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn Indy road course as he built a big gap over Grosjean at 9s and 16.2s over Alex Palou in P3 with 10 laps left to run. Managing his lead, the Dutchman cruised to a 4.9s win over Grosjean’s No. 51 Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing Honda, and 15s clear of Palou’s No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

“We had an awesome start to the weekend, and I knew we had the car,” VeeKay said. “The car was so fast. It’s just the perfect day. I don’t know what to say. Grabbing our first podium here a year ago, and now a win.”

It was the first win for ECR since Iowa in 2016 with Josef Newgarden and, by amazing coincidence, came five years to the day when fellow countryman Max Verstappen scored his first Formula 1 victory at Barcelona on May 15, 2016. VeeKay also became IndyCar’s third new winner of 2021, following Palou at Barber and Pato O’Ward at Texas 2.

Although seeing a P1 turn into a P2 at the finish line rarely leaves a driver feeling happy, Grosjean wasn’t overly upset at the race’s outcome considering how close his career and life came to an end in November at the Bahrain Formula 1 event.

“It’s really a good day,” he said. “We led at the start of the race and were super-fast. Bahrain was horrible, but for my life, it’s a great experience; the support I’m having (from fans) is incredible. The team did super good.”

In hindsight, the only mistake with the DCRwRWR entry came with its call to keep Grosjean on Firestone’s faster red-banded alternate tires for the first two stints. Other than Grosjean and Palou, VeeKay and the drivers who finished P4-P7 either started on the slower Firestone primary tires and traded them for reds for the rest of the race, or went to the primaries at the first stop and returned to reds for the remainder of the contest.

By running the first two stints on reds and waiting to use primaries until the second stop, Grosjean struggled in the middle portion of the race against drivers on reds and lost touch to VeeKay.

“Got a bit unlucky with slower cars,” Grosjean added. “P2 on my third race in IndyCar is not too bad.”

Considering how he missed the opening practice session with a water leak in the No. 10 Honda, Palou was nothing short of spectacular for CGR. VeeKay and Grosjean were on a different planet with pace as the team’s plan to use reds to open the race and stay on primaries until the checkered flag backfired. However, Palou solidified his place behind teammate Scott Dixon in the championship, and led the four-car squad home for the second time this year.

“It was a good day,” Palou said. “It’s good, we’re on the podium. We grabbed those points.”

Behind the podium trio, Josef Newgarden was the top performer for Team Penske, but his P2 starting spot was lost on the opening lap and front-running pace was slightly missing as he claimed P4, 18.4s arrears to VeeKay.

“We just did not have the pace I thought we would coming into the race,” Newgarden said. “Felt like just got beat on pace today, but we hung in there.”

Initially grumpy on his team’s choice to pit early and place him on a fuel-saving mission, Graham Rahal executed the mission to perfection, vaulting from P11 to P5 in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. Penske’s Simon Pagenaud completed the top six in the No. 22 Chevy, 29.6s down to the winner.

Among the large group of favorites who had terrible qualifying positions to overcome, Alexander Rossi was the top performer in motoring from P14 to P7 in the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda. Dixon in the no. 9 Honda was next, climbing from P16 to P9, and of those making big improvements, Andretti’s Ryan Hunter-Reay took the No. 28 Honda from P19 to P12.

The saddest result on the day belonged to Jack Harvey, who was on pace to claim another Indy GP podium until everything went wrong during his second pit stop in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Honda. A problem attaching a rear tire before he left the pit box forced him to stop and wait for the problem to be solved. Leaving the pits a second time, his right-rear tire was flat and forced an immediate return. Harvey’s start in P3 and improvement to P2 was met with an unrepresentative finish of P23, two laps down to VeeKay.

On strategy, and on speed, ECR aced the GMR Grand Prix. VeeKay was aggressive while hunting, flawless while leading, and helped end a long drought for the Indy-based team. It won’t be his last.



The 85-lap race saw 25 drivers charge into Turn 1 with a minimal amount of contact, but with Simon Pagenaud locking up under braking and hitting Conor Daly, leaving the P6 starter stranded on the grass as a caution flew before the end of the lap. Graham Rahal was also involved as Daly’s car was knocked into his entry and soon pitted. Polesitter Romain Grosjean got a healthy jump on the field and behind him, Jack Harvey (P3 start) got past Josef Newgarden in P2.

With the mid-pack congestion, Scott Dixon (P16) fell back to P19 and pitted on Lap 4 under yellow along with Pato O’Ward (P18), who was near the bottom of the field as well. Both drivers traded their Firestone primary tires for alternates and restarted in P22 and P23, respectively.

Grosjean, on reds, charged away on the Lap 5 restart, and put 1.1s on Harvey–on primaries–as Lap 6 started. The gap was up to 2.0s by Lap 8, with Newgarden 2.7s back, Alex Palou 3.3s arrears, and Scott McLaughlin 4.7s behind in P5.

Running in tandem, the Dixon-O’Ward train was up to P16-P17 by Lap 10 as their reds helped the duo to carves through a long line of drivers on primaries. By Lap 12, Harvey was down by 3.7s to Grosjean, but managed to keep Newgarden—on reds—safely behind. Alexander Rossi and Rinus VeeKay were the first to make standard pit stops on Lap 13 and both went onto the faster Firestone tires. Takuma Sato made his first stop and left with the right-front wheel gun and hose tangled beneath the front wing.

Harvey pitted from P2 on Lap 14 as the first views of race strategy were revealed; some went in once the window opened while others opted to go longer into the stint before stopping. Lap 17 started with Grosjean holding 5.7s over Palou, 12s on teammate Ed Jones and 17.2s over Ryan Hunter-Reay as the top four stood out by staying out. Dixon was 20.8s behind Grosjean in P5. Harvey and Newgarden were in P8-P9 after the Meyer Shank Racing driver passed Newgarden under braking.

Lap 22 had Palou 5.2s behind Grosjean, Ryan Hunter-Reay 20.8s arrears, and Dixon 23.1s down as the top three continued to circulate on ageing tires. Hunter-Reay was the first to stop among the trio on Lap 25, promoting Dixon to P3, Harvey to P4, Rahal to P5, and VeeKay to P6.

Grosjean finally pitted on Lap 26, taking another set of reds. Dixon’s red tires were rooted by Lap 28, lapping 1.5s slower than Grosjean in P2 on fresh rubber. Dixon pitted at the end of the lap, returning Grosjean to P1. Once the order settled on Lap 31, Grosjean held 2.5s over Harvey on reds, 6.7s over Palou on primaries, 8.5s over VeeKay on reds, and 14.6 on a Newgarden on primaries; Dixon plummeted to P18, surrendering the early gains.

Among those who had poor qualifying results, Lap 38 showed Rossi in P10, Power in P12, O’Ward in P14, Dixon in P16 and Bourdais in P23. Harvey pitted from P2 on the same lap as Colton Herta joined in, but Harvey’s crew had an issue with a wheel gun and did not secure a rear wheel, losing time. Harvey’s right-rear tire went flat on the out-lap, ending his hopes for a podium result.

Newgarden pitted on Lap 40, taking reds. Palou did the same on Lap 41 but went for more primaries as Grosjean stayed out. Held up by teammate Jimmie Johnson, Palou lost a spot to VeeKay while getting up to speed. While this was going on, Grosjean pulled off a late-braking pass into Turn 1 on Sato that included some side-by-side contact. Sato returned the favor to un-lap himself and slowed Grosjean while going by.

Grosjean was in on Lap 44 to take his first set of primaries and returned with a charging VeeKay on reds in attack mode. VeeKay took P3 from Grosjean at Turn 12 and set off as he waited for Hunter-Reay in P1 and Dixon in P2 to make their stops.

Lap 46 had VeeKay holding 1.4s over Grosjean, 3.5s over Palou, and 11.5s over Newgarden as Dixon pitted on Lap 47. The gap was 2.5s between VeeKay and Grosjean at the start of Lap 48, and by running long and edging into the grass at Turn 1, Grosjean fell closer into Palou’s clutches. Hunter-Reay stopped at the end of the lap, promoting VeeKay to P1.

Grosjean was able to rebuild his lead over Palou in P3 to 1.8s, but VeeKay’s reds saw the lead stretch to 4.1s by Lap 52.

Lap 55 had VeeKay with 3.6s over the two primary runners in Grosjean (2.8s) a Palou (4.2s) while Newgarden in P4 on reds was 12s adrift from the leader. Stuck behind the lapped Juan Pablo Montoya, Grosjean was shadowed by Palou on Lap 59 as the gap was down to 0.7s.

VeeKay opened up the final pit stops on Lap 61 as the threat of rain entered the frame. Grosjean and Palou finally passed Montoya on Lap 61, but the damage was done. Palou and Newgarden stopped on Lap 63 as a slow right-rear tire change erased a few seconds of advantage held by Palou. Grosjean pitted at the end of Lap 63, moving from primaries to reds. VeeKay blew by to resume leading the race with Dixon, in P2, needing to make his last stop. Dixon was in on Lap 66, leaving VeeKay to lead the race with 5.2s over Grosjean, 9.5 over Palou, and 16.5s on Newgarden.

Running P10, Herta and Marcus Ericsson clashed, leaving Herta in the grass and down to P13 after returning to the tarmac. Of the long-haul drivers, Rossi was in P7 on Lap 70, Dixon was up to P9, Power was P11, O’Ward was P15, and Bourdais was P19.

VeeKay was disappearing as well, 7.7s clear of Grosjean and 14.3 over Palou. Shifting ahead to Lap 80 of 85, VeeKay was in charge, holding a safe 8.0s over Grosjean, 18.1 over Palou, and 18.7s on Newgarden. Other than the close scrap for P3, the GMR GP had been settled.