June 12, 2021

VeeKay: Amazing day I will remember for the rest of my life

The Dutch 20-year-old series sophomore drove the Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet to a five second victory over rookie polesitter Romain Grosjean on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s roadcourse, where last July he scored his first top five, and last October he scored his first pole and first podium finish.

VeeKay said afterward: “I’ve never cried when I won a race, but I have done today. So did my parents. “It’s just amazing.

“Their lives have revolved around me for a very long time to make this possible for me, and I’m extremely grateful. Yeah, I’ve finally done it. It just feels surreal.

“I think I will kind of get the feeling more once I wake up tomorrow morning, but no, it’s just great that they can be here and enjoy this moment with me.”

Later he added: “Of course it’s big to have them here. It’s a lot to take in, but also they worked as hard as me to get where we are now, so it’s great that they can… soak in this whole experience with me, and yeah, it’s awesome to win when they are here.”

Regarding his success on the 2.439-mile IMS roadcourse, VeeKay said: “I like this track, especially when you have a good car. It’s always more fun. This is a track that really suits me. Got to be quick, but you can also attack and pass, and there’s many, many opportunities to move forward. That’s exactly what I could do today, so I’m very happy. Really have to thank the team.”

“This morning, we started in the warmup fastest lap time. Of course, doesn’t say too much, but the car felt amazing, very good on the long run, even though we only ran blacks. But then we went to the reds, learned from last year because we had many races here, that the reds were very good in the long run, and [we] had a great ability to pass other cars, and strategy was amazing by the team. So everything was just on it.

“An amazing day, and definitely one I will remember for the rest of my life.”

VeeKay, who became the third new IndyCar winner this year in just five races, said he felt able to tackle any driver in the car that Ed Carpenter’s team had given him.

“I think pace was really, really big today. We had awesome pace, which really helped make the strategy work. Passing was easy because of the pace. Every time someone came in my path I could attack and go for it, and yeah, that really put a few cars between me and [runner-up] Romain [Grosjean] at the end, which gave me a lot of comfort…

“It felt like I could drive away from him. I heard I had a very, very nice gap to him, so I kind of took it easy, tried to save a little bit of tires, even though it was hard to keep them going, but yeah, we got there, saved some fuel at the end, and everything was awesome, like perfect down to the millimeter for the team. Very happy with them. I don’t know how many times in a row they have given me a great strategy.”

Following an early second pitstop, VeeKay was on alternate compound Firestones when he encountered one of his prime rivals Alex Palou being inadvertently held up by his Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda teammate Jimmie Johnson who emerged from his second stop at the same time. Palou on cold primary compound tires was struggling to get them up to temperature and get around Johnson as the trio headed onto the back straight.

Johnson moved right to let Palou past, but Palou had to move hard left as he was warned to defend from the rapidly-approaching VeeKay. The Ed Carpenter car had just enough momentum to drive between them and pass Palou around the outside into Turn 7.

Describing the moment, VeeKay said: “I saw they were coming out of pit lane, but I knew they were teammates, so they have cold tires. I had just hit kind of the peak of my tires on the reds, so I knew I had to get by and kind of get a gap.

“Alex defended on the back straight. Jimmie drove the normal line. There was just about one car width space between them and I went for it. I knew there were a lot of marbles on track, so didn’t want to get the tires too dirty, so I stuck it between there, and I know Jimmie is a smart driver, same for Alex, and yeah, kind of hoped they would see me, and they did.

“I was very happy that I could stick that move, and definitely gave me a big adrenaline kick!… I like passing. As spectacular as possible would be nice!…I’m very, very happy that I’ve got the car to do it with. Definitely makes passing a whole lot easier.”

Describing the closing laps, VeeKay said: “I knew I could win the race, so didn’t want to think too much about it. I kind of wandered off sometimes – ‘OK, you’re going to be a race winner. Oh, I’m not.’ I just want to kind of take it easy. Big goal was don’t make mistakes.

“I had a good, comfortable gap, and yeah, I knew the tires were going to go a little bit there at the end, so wanted to do everything to kind of save the rears, but yeah, did everything I could, and yeah, very grateful for everyone around helping me, especially Ed Carpenter Racing.”

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