Fighting VeeKay goes unrewarded in hectic race at Detroit
Rinus ‘VeeKay’ van Kalmthout fought like a lion in the streets of Detroit but went unrewarded in the seventh round of the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series, as the 22-year-old Dutchman briefly held third but finished 18th after being tapped around.
Following the tough opening stages of this IndyCar season, the May race in Indianapolis was supposed to provide hope and confidence to VeeKay, as in qualifying for the legendary Indianapolis 500 the Dutch driver clearly demonstrated his raw pace for a fourth consecutive year, the youngster storming to a stunning second place on the grid for the most important race of the year. In the race itself, VeeKay was easily able to mix it with the leaders, himself leading for 24 laps, before being forced to settle for tenth place after a mistake in the pitlane.
It is telling for the lack of speed that his team Ed Carpenter Racing is facing in 2023 that this was VeeKay’s first top-ten finish of the entire season, as in the first five races of the year the team had to pull out all the stops to stay in touch with the midfield runners – not quite the ideal situation for a talented driver who feels ready to fight for pole positions and victories.
Nevertheless, VeeKay is not allowing himself to let his head drop. In qualifying for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, the Dutchman was just 0.001 seconds shy of a spot in the Fast Twelve before settling for 14th on the grid, with opportunities for progress, as many were preparing for a war of attrition with the 27 IndyCars poised to cover as many as 100 laps over Detroit’s scorching hot, concrete road surface.
Starting out with an alternative strategy – VeeKay started on the hard tyre unlike many of his competitors – the #21 BitNile Chevrolet driver worked his way to the front at a rapid pace. In fact, by the end of his first stint, after lap 36, the Dutchman was already up into third place. Following a tidy second stint, a second consecutive top-ten ranking seemed on the cards for VeeKay, who as ever showed his fighting mettle while duelling with his IndyCar rivals.
However, a troublesome second pitstop dropped VeeKay to 12th place, only for the Dutch driver to fall further down the order shortly before the end due to a nasty tap from Colton Herta. VeeKay’s car was so ‘startled’ by Herta’s hit that it shot into ‘anti-stall’ mode, allowing several rivals to pass. This left the Dutchman in his gold-and-white car to settle for 18th at the finish.
“It was a tough race on this new circuit,” VeeKay commented from Detroit afterwards. “We didn’t know exactly how the strategies would unfold and so, because of our starting position in the midfield, we opted for the alternative strategy. It felt good, the pace was there and we were able to engage in the battle for the top-ten places. The caution shortly after the halfway point did not work in my favour, but we were on course for a good result.”
“Unfortunately, we lost some time at the second and final pitstop, which left me just outside the top ten. That wasn’t a real worry, as the field was bunched up and a street circuit always offers up opportunities in the closing stages. As it proved difficult to heat up my hard tyres, Herta was able to catch up and before I knew it he drove straight into the back of me in turn 5. The car shot into anti-stall and I lost a lot of time with that. Afterwards, I had so much oversteer in turns 1 and 2 that several rivals were able to pass me.”
“I regret the final result, but am positive about the pace. At least the speed was there this weekend and we are taking steps forward as a team. I am really looking forward to the next race weekend, as I have already recorded several race wins at Road America in my time in the feeder series. It’s one of my favourite circuits, so I can’t wait to race there again!” VeeKay concluded in fighting spirits.
Action in the NTT IndyCar Series continues with the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America, scheduled for Sunday 18 June next. The eighth race of the 2023 IndyCar season will get underway around 19:30hrs Dutch time.