until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Erratic IndyCar winner faces obscurity without big turnaround

by Jack Benyon
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Is one of IndyCar’s rising stars and race winners – who is currently just 22 years old yet set to make his 50th start this weekend – in danger of his career stalling?

It’s been a woeful start – disastrous he calls it – to 2023 for Ed Carpenter Racing driver Rinus VeeKay, who sits 22nd in points entering this weekend’s Barber Motorsports Park round.

VeeKay’s “disastrous” season

St Pete

Traffic in qualifying meant a 24th place start. He crashed at Turn 4 after a restart when he was fighting for 12th


ECR struggled in qualifying, but VeeKay rebounded to 11th in the race after starting 26th

Long Beach

Qualified 19th, had moved forward and set the fastest lap of the race to that point while 16th but retired with a mechanical issue four laps later. Complained of low straightline speed.

While ECR hasn’t started well, you have to feel for Veekay with some of the misfortune he’s had. That said, his mistake in St Pete is one of the reasons he finds himself where he is in the points because Callum Ilott who was just ahead when VeeKay crashed out finished fifth, in no small part down to staying out of trouble.

Rinus Veekay Firestone Grand Prix Of St Petersburg By Joe Skibinski Largeimagewithoutwatermark M74717

“We’re definitely not happy,” replied VeeKay when asked by The Race what his level of concern is over his team’s form to start the year.

“It’s been so far disastrous in results. Definitely not where we want to be.

“We know we have pace. Long Beach wasn’t where we wanted to be. Texas, there’s still room to improve. I think we really had the pace to race there in Texas.

“In St Petersburg, we were third, sixth in practice, something goes wrong in qualifying. At the end of the race we were fighting for sixth place again.

“I think we have all the cards on the table to do better, to get back to last year’s results.

Rinus Veekay Indianapolis 500 Open Test By Chris Jones Largeimagewithoutwatermark M76872

“We just have been a bit unlucky. I think Barber, Indy road course, Indy 500 are those places where I can climb back up and get back to where we belong.”

Across the two full-time cars in VeeKay and Conor Daly, the team has two finishes inside the top 20 from six race attempts.

Sure, there’s bad luck involved, but as a collective this group has to do better.

It comes at a worrying time for VeeKay. Last year he was thrust into the limelight as a possible signing for Arrow McLaren. This speculation coincided with a tough run in May where he continued his brilliant Indianapolis 500 qualifying form but struggled to bag results after what had been a strong start to that season.

With McLaren off the table, VeeKay signed a new, what was described as a ‘multi-year’ deal, with ECR.

But with a silly season coming up where Ganassi and Andretti will almost certainly have seats open among others, and a host of drivers coming in to the series with impressive form as rookies like Ilott and David Malukas, you start to wonder if signing that deal with ECR was a good move.

Unless there’s a mechanism for leaving after this season, he could well miss out on multiple bigger team seats because he is pinned at ECR.

The amazing thing for VeeKay is – despite making his 50th start this weekend – is that time is on his side.

Rinus Veekay Acura Grand Prix Of Long Beach By Joe Skibinski Largeimagewithoutwatermark M76306

He’s younger than the newest race winner Kyle Kirkwood by nearly two years. In fact, he’s younger than all of last year’s IndyCar rookies apart from Malukas, so he has time in terms of age. It’s running out of big team opportunities that might prove to be a bigger problem.

Now, it’s important to note a few things about ECR here. First, it’s in contention for an Indy 500 win every single year, and how it does that is a marvel of modern IndyCar. There are bigger teams whose form fluctuates more, whereas ECR is a constant, at least recently in qualifying, with fewer resources than many of its poorer-performing rivals.

The other thing to note is, we’re three races in, there’s been some bad luck and we haven’t even touched a natural-terrain road course yet where ECR has hit a sweet spot in most events in recent seasons.

VeeKay’s 2021 win came on the Indy road course while he also bagged a top five at Mid-Ohio last year. Daly’s also been a top 10 lock on the Indy road course.

So it’s not time to write off ECR yet.

But the question is, even if ECR does improve, can VeeKay excel in these surroundings?

We won’t know how good VeeKay is until you strap him into top equipment with a strong team-mate in the same car for a benchmark.

Perhaps fighting for occasional wins and top fives while being strong at Indy is VeeKay’s ceiling.

But we won’t know if that’s the case or if he is in fact a future champion in waiting until he gets a car that can be up there every week. On recent form, it’s just hard to see how ECR does that, even if it has its areas of very admirable expertise.

2023 Long Beach Grand Prix

This weekend is the perfect opportunity for VeeKay and ECR to show what it can do.

VeeKay should have won at Barber last year if not for forgetting to use push to pass in defence against the eventual winner Pato O’Ward, something that VeeKay calls “fuel for nightmares, definitely”.

He thinks the team is “going to be really quick this weekend”, which it really needs, even if not for any of the reasons of VeeKay’s or the team’s future we’ve discussed above, then just for a bit of relief from the grind of 2023 so far.

Asked if the upcoming races were make or break for the season, VeeKay replied: “I think so.

“Also the morale of the team. It’s important we get good results. If we get there, fight for the win, we make it happen, at least we got to be at the front of the field now.

“It’s going to be tough. Everyone is very fast. I think there’s more fast cars than last year at the track in the IndyCar Series.

“I think we can really change our season with these few weekends.”

And no one needs an uplift in form more than VeeKay, as he needs to remind the paddock he races in just how good he is.

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