He drove more than twenty laps in the lead, but a mistake in the pit lane proved costly in terms of the final result. After two hundred hard-fought laps at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Rinus ‘VeeKay’ van Kalmthout concluded his fourth participation in the Indianapolis 500 with a tenth place finish.
“As a result, I collided with Alex. It was a terrible shame.”
Rinus ‘Veekay’ van Kalmthout – IndyCar driver at Ed Carpenter Racing
After a difficult opening phase of the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, VeeKay and employer Ed Carpenter Racing found their way back to the front at Indianapolis’ world-famous oval. Throughout the practice and qualifying days for the sixth race of the year, the gold-and-white #21 BitNile Chevrolet blazed across the two-and-a-half-mile track to excel with a stunning second-place start for The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
The first quarter of the race went as many expected: polesitter Alex Palou and his opposing driver VeeKay, who had eluded each other in qualifying by just four thousandths of a second, called the shots. As early as the third lap, the Dutch ace attempted an attack on the lead position, which succeeded brilliantly. In both the first and the second stint of his race, VeeKay easily maintained his position at the front, constantly staying within the top four.
VeeKay found out that accidents can happen in a very small way during the third of his six pit stops. The 22-year-old driver, who did not put a wheel wrong at full speed, was surprised by the oversteer generated by his heavily spinning tires as he exited the pits. As a result, the talented twenty-something lost control and, to make matters worse, slid into competitor Palou. Race control then penalized VeeKay with a drive through penalty for causing an avoidable incident.
Since the entire starting field was driving within a few dozen seconds of each other, VeeKay had to join in last place after his drive through penalty. From spot 28, it seemed like an impossible task to get even slightly to the front, but VeeKay refused to sit back. The Ed Carpenter Racing driver produced some lightning-fast laps, in which he quickly caught up to the pack of drivers ahead of him.
Helped forward by some crashes and an alternate strategy, VeeKay battled his way back to a very neat eighth place finish, with a chance for more. In a chaotic final stage, in which race control opted for only a single warm-up lap after a race break out of time, VeeKay and some of his opponents were unpleasantly surprised. As a result, the Dutchman eventually crossed the finish line in tenth place, marking his first top-ten finish of the 2023 season. The 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge was won by Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden.
“We were right there,” VeeKay looked back from Indianapolis on his race, in which he led as many as 24 laps. “In the first two runs I was able to compete for the lead position and was mainly concerned with saving fuel. The car was good, although I had a little bit of vibration here and there.”
“During my third pit stop, I was next to Alex Palou when I got on the gas, on which the car broke out. As a result, I collided with Alex. It was a terrible shame, because without that mistake we could have battled continuously at the front. In the end I fought my way back to the front from place 28 and I am very satisfied with the race pace, but a mistake in this race simply gets punished. I am balking not only for myself, but also for my team – which has worked extremely hard in recent weeks.”
“I caught the last restart in eighth place and had a view of the guys in front of me. However, I wasn’t sure if the green flag had already been waved, as I didn’t get any notification of it. As a result, a number of competitors came alongside me, who also almost pushed me off the track. Fortunately, I managed to keep the ECR Chevrolet on track and finished in the top ten. Below the line I am proud of the way I fought my way to the front, but bitter about that one mistake, because there could have been so much in it today.”
VeeKay and his fellow drivers will not have to sit still for long. Indeed, next weekend the next race in the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship will take place. On Sunday, June 4, the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear will be held on the street circuit in down town Detroit. That race will get underway around 9:30 p.m. Dutch time.