Rinus VeeKay’s journey towards becoming the NTT IndyCar Series’ newest race winner began on the Road To Indy, starting with Augie Pabst’s team in USF2000 before moving to the middle and top tiers with Ricardo Juncos. It was with Juncos Racing where the teenage VeeKay made his first big impressions when he crushed the Indy Pro 2000 field in 2018, taking seven wins and 10 podiums from 16 races on his way to clinching the championship.
VeeKay remained with Juncos in 2019 for his graduation to Indy Lights, and while he ended up finishing second to Andretti Autosport’s powerhouse team led by title winner Oliver Askew, his six wins and 14 podiums from 18 races spoke to his formidable talent and growth over two seasons with the Argentinian’s program.
Juncos was just outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday at his shop near Turn 1 when his former driver was on the way to becoming the first to win at all three levels of the Road To Indy and in IndyCar.
“One hour before the checkered flag, we were unloading our Indy Lights cars and my son Leandro came to me and said, ‘Rinus is gonna be the winner,’” Juncos told RACER. “Rinus wasn’t the leader, but my son was watching and knew Rinus was doing something special. So when it got to 15 minutes left, we stopped everything and were watching a big TV.
“He’s so good. This win was, for us, the ultimate goal. We teach these kids, and we give them everything that we know and that we learn through our own life in racing for them to be the best possible driver. And Rinus was so good already before IndyCar. The kid was already super-talented, this first win… you cannot be surprised by him doing this.”
In Lights, it was VeeKay’s supreme aggression and commitment that stood out from the rest of the field. During Saturday’s Indy GP, the same attacking style and extreme focus was on display as he executed a flawless race in the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy. Juncos watched all of those ingredients start to jell when he arrived at his team three years ago, and saw how VeeKay’s parents were instrumental in building their son into a rising star in a new country, and at home in Holland.
“When we won the championship in 2018, he was just 17 and doing this in Indy Pro 2000. (He was) so young, so we’ve got to remember that,” he said. “And two or three years of development after makes a big difference. Today, he’s a more complete driver, but he was already very close when he came to us.
“His mom and dad really had a good plan for him. You could see how talented he was, and how smart he was as a racer, and they conducted the other part of racing, the marketing side, the sponsor side, and made everything proper for him so he could only focus on the driving. So right away in 2018, this kid had right mind mindset, proper preparation on the mental side, physical side, nutrition side; everything. Rinus was all that. And he so much better, so much stronger now.”
Having played a small part in VeeKay’s ascension to Victory Lane in IndyCar, Juncos marvels at his potential along with all the other next-generation talent that is taking over this year.
“The level of young kids are are very impressive for me, and that’s the beauty of it because you see Pato O’Ward winning a race, and Alex Palou, many wins for Colton Herta, and Rinus is now with them,” he said.
“Honestly, as a team owner, even when we race in IndyCar, I have a chance to work with these kids from the beginning and you hope they go very far in the sport. But this is not possible for all of them. But when they get there and they win like Rinus did, for us, this is everything we wish for them when they come to us so young. My whole team is super-proud of him, and people need to keep watching him. He’s only 20 years old. How much better will he become?”