Rinus ‘VeeKay’ van Kalmthout can be recognized in the upcoming NTT INDYCAR SERIES season by a white and gold livery. The 22-year-old Dutchman is entering his fourth season at the highest level with Ed Carpenter Racing, and will also drive the #21 BitNile Chevrolet next year.
“This one is very sour though, especially considering the pace we had in the free practice sessions”
Rinus ‘Veekay’ van Kalmthout – IndyCar driver at Ed Carpenter Racing
After a nearly six-month winter break, VeeKay and his IndyCar colleagues finally got to act again. Battleground for the first race of the year was, as always, the street circuit of St. Petersburg in Florida, which is currently the home race of the Fort Lauderdale-based VeeKay. The Dutch driver, who also races for Ed Carpenter Racing this year, boasted two consecutive top-ten finishes in St. Pete.
VeeKay’s practice results were more than encouraging. The #21 BitNile Chevrolet easily competed with the best of the IndyCar field. VeeKay recorded a sixth and third time respectively in the two practice sessions, allowing him to call himself one of the favorites for a promising starting position. However, during the all-important qualifying session, VeeKay was obstructed by a competitor, failing to complete the intended fastest lap. As a result, the Dutch driver came no further than a very disappointing 24th place.
From that twenty-fourth spot, the born Hoofddorper, who started his fourth IndyCar season, was allowed to show his characteristic fighting spirit. The catch-up started by paying attention: while seven of his competitors tumbled over each other in a chaotic opening lap, VeeKay kept his cool and his car out of trouble. When the smoke cleared, the Dutch driver appeared to have already piloted his gold and white car into eighteenth place.
Because the IndyCar race committee deemed it necessary to raise the red flag and stop the race to clean up the debris, VeeKay and Ed Carpenter Racing took a different approach to the race. The team changed the tires, swapping the soft rubber for the hard compound. It turned out to be a bold but smart choice: with some intelligent maneuvers, VeeKay made his way to the front.
Shortly before the halfway point, the Dutch ECR driver found himself in 12th position, not far from the leading group. However, an overtaking move by Josef Newgarden brought him onto the dirty part of the rubberized track, causing VeeKay to get off the ideal line and disappear steeringless into the tire wall. Behind opponents Jack Harvey and Kyle Kirkwood were unable to avoid the stranded VeeKay, leaving the duo’s car badly damaged and the overtaking chase appeared to be over.
“Bummer,” VeeKay looked back on the result from St. Petersburg. “Josef came alongside me and I deviated only a few centimeters from the ideal line, but there was so little grip there that the car was simply uncontrollable. The speed was good up to that point. It was a good choice to go for an alternative strategy, because that allowed us to move forward at a rapid pace.”
“This one is very sour though, especially considering the pace we had in the free practice sessions. Besides, of course you just want to finish the first race of the year. That is good for your own feeling and for that of the team, at least then there is a result on the scoreboard. The positive point is that we were running well. The speed is there.”
The next IndyCar race will take place next Sunday, April 2, when it is time for the first oval race of 2023. The PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway is scheduled to begin around 6:30 p.m. Dutch time.