2021 Indycar Indy Gp Rinus Veekay Vl Celebration Al Steinberg Photo
Rinus VeeKay celebrates his win in Saturday's GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Al Steinberg photo)

VeeKay Breaks Through In GMR Grand Prix

INDIANAPOLIS – The NTT IndyCar Series’ trend of first-time winners continued in Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix, as 20-year-old Rinus VeeKay of The Netherlands scored his first career win.

The Dutch driver also gave Ed Carpenter Racing its first-ever victory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The team that has deep roots in oval racing at Indy, including three poles by owner and driver Ed Carpenter, scored its first win on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile IMS road course.

It was also a fitting “Welcome home” for ECR team partner Tony George, whose family used to own the Indianapolis Motor Speedway before selling it to Roger Penske on Nov. 4, 2019.

VeeKay defeated IndyCar rookie driver Romain Grosjean by 4.510 seconds. VeeKay piloted a Chevrolet and Grosjean drove a Honda.

VeeKay’s win continues a trend that began with Alex Palou getting his first Indy car win the season-opening Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 18.

Pato O’Ward then got his first Indy car win in the XPEL 375 at Texas Motor Speedway on May 2 before VeeKay’s breakthrough triumph on Saturday afternoon.

Palou’s No. 10 American Legion Honda finished third for Chip Ganassi Racing. Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden was the first of the “old guard” of drivers, finishing fourth in the No. 2 Snap-On Tools Chevrolet for Team Penske.

Graham Rahal’s No. 15 Honda at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing rounded out the top five.

Grosjean led the most laps in the race, staying out front for 44 of the 85 laps, while VeeKay led for 33 circuits. VeeKay, however, was out front for the most important of those laps – the final one.

“I dreamed a lot about it, but I didn’t know if it would ever come so soon,” said Marin VeeKay, Rinus’ father.

VeeKay became the sixth-youngest winner in IndyCar history at 20 years, eight months and three days old. The last win for Ed Carpenter Racing prior to Saturday was at Iowa Speedway on July 10, 2016, by Josef Newgarden.

Meanwhile, the last IndyCar season which featured three first-time winners was in 2013, when James Hinchcliffe, Mike Conway, Takuma Sato, and Charlie Kimball all collected their maiden triumphs.

Grosjean’s No. 51 Honda started on the pole, but it was VeeKay who was the fastest driver in Saturday morning’s warmup session.

It was a precursor of what was to come later in the race.

“I actually thought it could happen; we had an awesome start and I knew we had the car and were so fast,” VeeKay said in victory lane. “I’m so happy for the team. I couldn’t have done it without them.

“I’m standing in victory lane! It’s amazing. It’s a dream come true, not just for me but for the team and the family. My parents sacrificed everything to get me up here.”

VeeKay’s parents celebrated in delight with their young son in victory lane at IMS.

2021 Indycar Indy Gp Rinus Veekay Race Action Al Steinberg Photo
Rinus VeeKay en route to victory in Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Al Steinberg photo)

VeeKay had an impressive pit stop midway through the race, and when the pit stop sequence cycled through, VeeKay held the race lead on lap 48. VeeKay was never passed for position the entire race.

He made his final pit stop on lap 60, which briefly gave the lead back to Grosjean, but when Grosjean pitted on lap 63 as the leader, VeeKay passed him at full speed on the track as Grosjean left pit lane.

From there, the young Dutchman had the race firmly in control.

The IMS road course has been good to VeeKay. He scored his first top-five in last year’s GMR Grand Prix on July 4, got his first pole there during the first of two races last October and also scored his first podium on the IMS road course last fall as well.

He added a victory to that collection on Saturday.

Grosjean’s second-place finish was also dramatic, considering his fiery crash in the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix on Nov. 29 left his hands badly scarred from the fire.

“I love leading races; that’s why I came to IndyCar,” Grosjean said. “It’s been a really great experience.”

After his win earlier in the year, Palou’s third place finish left him wanting more.

“I like to win and this team likes to win, so we wanted to win,” Palou said. “But it’s good. I’m happy with that. It was exciting at the end with Newgarden, but the No. 10 car did an amazing job.

“If I had to do it again, I would have maybe used the used red [alternate] tires. But, yeah, I’m happy.”

Scott Dixon was able to convert a 16th-place start into a ninth-place finish, one behind Team Penske rookie Scott McLaughlin’s Chevrolet. Dixon had the most on-track passes in the race with 12.

There were eight lead changes with five different leaders and just one yellow flag for three laps, which came at the start of the race when Conor Daly’s No. 20 ECR Chevrolet was bounced out of the field with contact in turn one on the opening lap.

Dixon maintained the championship lead and will carry a 13-point advantage over Palou in the NTT IndyCar Series standings into the 105th Indianapolis 500 on May 30.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and current IndyCar Series rookie Jimmie Johnson once again struggled as he continues to adapt to a new form of racing. Johnson finished 24th in the 25-car field.