The first podium finish of Rinus ‘VeeKay’ van Kalmthout in the NTT INDYCAR Series season 2022 is a fact. The 21-year-old Ed Carpenter Racing driver finished third in the fourth race of the year, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
In good spirits, VeeKay had traveled to Alabama. In the first three races of the new IndyCar season, the young Dutchman had shown some strong performances. At the overture in St. Petersburg, VeeKay crossed the line in sixth place, only to take tenth place three weeks later on the Texas oval, saving fuel. In the streets of Long Beach, where the third encounter took place, it proved difficult for the Ed Carpenter Racing team to hold their own. Nevertheless, VeeKay managed to score a few points in Florida.
At Alabama’s Barber Motorsports Park, where VeeKay scored a sixth-place finish in 2021, the Fort Lauderdale, Florida native, wanted to hone his best performance of the new season so far. VeeKay started in the best possible way by setting the fastest lap time in both free practice and qualifying. As a result, the driver of the #21 SONAX Chevrolet was allowed to start from first place for the second time in his still short IndyCar career.
Veekay with different livery in Acura Grand Prix or Long Beach
The twisty and unforgivable Barber Motorsports Park turned out to be right up VeeKay’s hand. From pole position, the Dutchman easily controlled the field: close attacker Patricio O’Ward, once he was behind, was unable to get within a second of his competitor. With a planned two-stop strategy in mind, VeeKay ticked off lap after lap. After 60 of the 90 laps, VeeKay had already led 56 of them.
However, the victory march of the talented twenty-something was disrupted. Shortly before the duo made their second pit stop, on lap 62, O’Ward was able to make up for time against VeeKay, partly thanks to a lagging behind. In addition, the pit stop battle turned out to be in favor of the Mexican driver, who turned up right behind his Dutch rival after changing the tires and refilling the fuel tank. VeeKay had to give up the lead, and later also second place to the strategically later retired Álex Palou.
In the third and final stint of the race, VeeKay was busy consolidating third place, which would give him his fourth podium finish in a year and a half. Up-and-coming veterans Will Power and Scott Dixon were unable to close their gap on VeeKay’s Carpenter car to the point that they were able to make an attempt to overtake. As a result, the Dutchman retained his third position until the finish, allowing him to sit on the podium next to O’Ward and Palou.
“It went very well, I was in the lead for a long time and managed to save fuel very well,” said VeeKay from Alabama. “At the second and final pit stop it was kind of like a drag race from the pit lane and unfortunately I lost it. I was a bit too conservative with the brakes in the outlap and I lost time there, allowing Pato to overtake me.”
“It’s a shame, but normally I’m supposed to be the happiest race car driver in the world. It’s fantastic to be able to enjoy a podium ceremony again, because it took a while. All in all, this was a very good weekend for us and above all a promising start to the important month of May.”
“Obviously it’s better if you’re a bit disappointed because you’re just short of a race win than to finish somewhere in the back of the middle. Ed Carpenter Racing has always done a great job at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and I’m really excited to get there. Last year I won the Road Course and was on the front row of the grid at the Indianapolis 500. Let’s see if we can do a little better this year!” VeeKay concludes defiantly.
The next race in the 2022 NTT INDYCAR Series season is the GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. This competition was won by VeeKay in 2021. The race will take place on Saturday 14 May.