Monday, March 27, 2023

2022 IndyCar Driver Reviews: Rinus VeeKay and Graham Rahal

Graham Rahal leads Rinus VeeKay around Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2022.
Graham Rahal leads Rinus VeeKay around Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2022. Photo courtesy of Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment.

Over the next several weeks there will be a driver review series published starting with the 20th placed driver in the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship. This will continue until reaching Will Power, the 2022 IndyCar Series champion.

Here, we will focus on Rinus VeeKay (12th place) and Graham Rahal (11th place).

Rinus VeeKay’s 2021 IndyCar campaign ended with a long downward slide after VeeKay broke his clavicle in June. In 2022, the Dutch racer hoped for a return to his pre-injury form and that came in bits and pieces during the season.

In his third full season with Ed Carpenter Racing in the No. 21 entry, VeeKay scored a pole position at Barber Motorsports Park, leading many to believe that the 2018 USF Pro 2000 champion was back.

However, Pato O’Ward passed VeeKay shortly after both exited the pits for their final stops. Shortly thereafter, Alex Palou blended from the pits in front of VeeKay to get second. VeeKay finished third in the fourth race of the season.

VeeKay was seventh in points after Barber, also finishing sixth at St. Petersburg and 10th at Texas Motor Speedway. Then at Indianapolis, the momentum just stopped.

An early crash in the Indianapolis 500 started a roller coaster middle part of the season. Several good results paired themselves with finishes of 12th or below. A pair of fourth place finishes helped VeeKay solidify 12th place in points. For 2023, the 22-year-old will have to have more consistency to match his pace in order to get a title.

Graham Rahal finished 11th in IndyCar points in 2022 after seven seasons in the top-10 in points. For Rahal, 2022 was a season of discovery as the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing organization expanded to a third car and had to find its mojo among the growing pains. The son of team co-owner Bobby Rahal had to be a mentor to team newcomer Christian Lundgaard while racing with new teammate Jack Harvey.

Rahal had only two top-five finishes from 17 races which is the fewest the Ohio native has had since 2014. But there is a bigger picture to consider.

In the middle of the season, there were questions about whether RLLR had lost their way as an organization. A midseason test at Sebring led to a lot of uncomfortable learning. The team had to face some hard facts that they weren’t going down the right setup path.

The team turned over a new leaf and completely changed their car setup approach. Shortly after the test, Rahal finished fourth at Toronto, his best result of the season.

Following Toronto, the 2006 Atlantics championship runner-up had four top-10 finishes in the final seven races of the season, including a fifth at Portland.

Rahal and the whole RLLR team are looking to get back to victory lane in 2023 and they have a good baseline from the end of 2022 to work from.

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