It was almost a perfect weekend for Rinus VeeKay.
The 21-year-old Dutchman started on pole in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, leading 57 laps and poised to cruise to victory. However, he was left to finish third after losing the lead to eventual race winner Pato O’Ward moments after the final run of pit stops.
VeeKay’s No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet led O’Ward as both drivers dove to pit road on Lap 61 of 90 and were bumper-to-bumper in the same order as they returned to the track. As they headed over the hill into Turn 5, O’Ward’s No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet lunged to the outside and completed an impressive pass around Veekay.
The swapping of positions was for seventh at the time, but decided the outcome of the race once the pit cycle was complete.
“Yeah, we were doing a great race,” VeeKay said, via Peacock. “Actually coming into the pit-lane, I really got held up by Jimmie (Johnson) so he (O’Ward) closed in the gap a lot. Then coming in pit-lane we beat him out there, so we had a good pit-stop, showed we improved there. I was looking in my mirrors, I kind of forgot to use the push-to-pass because I was so fuel conservative all race.
“Yeah I was a little too conservative there, mistakes on me. So yeah, pretty bummed about missing out on that win, but we had a great car. Great race.”
While it is the podium result is the highest of the season for VeeKay, it was a continuation of momentum the team established with two other top 10s in the previous three races.
“I think we are really good, I think we are better than where we were last year,” said VeeKay, who has one career IndyCar win (Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, 2021). “We hadn’t really challenged for pole last year, now we really did. So, I think we improved there. I think coming into Indy road course and Indy 500 and a few races afterwards, we’re all going to be right there. I think those are our best races.”
Now, all sights are now set on the month of May.
“Yeah, very excited,” VeeKay said. “That’s kind of my track (Indy road course), got my first podium ever there, my first pole position ever and then my first win ever. Very excited for that track, think we can do great there.”