Race Weekend Central

Rinus VeeKay Storms Into Indianapolis Pole Day After Morning Crash

SPEEDWAY, Ind. — Nearly six hours after Rinus VeeKay hit the wall exiting turn 3 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Ed Carpenter Racing Team President Tim Broyles decided to withdraw VeeKay’s already qualified car from 29th on the provisional starting grid because he believed the Dutch racer could go faster than a four-lap average of 231.166 mph.

Just over two-and-a-half minutes later, VeeKay validated Broyles’ beliefs as he pushed his No. 21 Chevrolet into Sunday’s Pole Day qualifying session with a four-lap average of 232.419 mph.

Instead of being near the edge of Sunday’s Last Chance Qualifying session, VeeKay knocked Colton Herta out of the top 12 and claimed his place in the Pole Day shootout.

“What a day,” VeeKay said in the post-qualifying press conference. “Just such a roller coaster. I mean, such a heartbreak to start the day. Crew got the car back together in under three hours, which is incredible to start with. Then to get a banker run in, get the car cooled down, go back out again at the end and do that… I’ve never lost hope. But I mean, I never expected us to do that. It’s such a great story, such a great job by the guys.”

“I am still out of words,” VeeKay told Fronstretch regarding his last-minute charge. “The only thing I can do is scream and be happy, and hug the guys. This is their effort, I did my share.”

VeeKay easily could have stayed on pit road as the session clock wound down. By doing that, he would have started in the middle of the 10th row for the 108th Indianapolis 500 on May 26.

Instead, VeeKay sped away from the first qualifying lane with five minutes remaining. At that moment, the driver who has started no worse than fourth in four previous races at IMS had no posted qualifying time.

Such is the gamble of the first qualifying lane. A driver in that lane gets priority over drivers in the second qualifying lane, but as a consequence must withdraw their posted qualifying speed.

With the sun gradually setting over the main straightaway grandstands, VeeKay began his four-lap qualifying run with just under three minutes remaining in the session.

Following VeeKay’s crash just before 11:15 on Saturday morning, the ECR mechanics repaired the car in under three hours with a mix of spare parts. VeeKay made a qualifying run just before 4 p.m. so the car would have a posted speed. With other repaired cars having difficulty finding qualifying pace, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that VeeKay would also struggle.

“The team did what they always do around this place,” VeeKay said. “They gave me a really fast car. I was a bit surprised by the first lap speed.

“Well, surprised in a good way.”

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In just over 38-and-a-half seconds, the 2018 USF Pro 2000 Champion put all of those doubts to bed with a first lap of 233.448 mph, the eighth-fastest lap from all qualified cars.

The crowd urged VeeKay on while the team worried about whether a mysterious engine power loss that affected their other two cars would also affect their fast charger as he turned two more laps of 232.614 mph and 231.957 mph.

After rounding turn 4 for the final time, VeeKay let the car drift toward the inside wall as he crossed the Yard of Bricks to complete his qualifying run with a final lap of 231.663 mph.

That final lap gave the 23-year-old a four-lap average speed that was good enough for the 11th fastest average speed of the day, guaranteeing VeeKay a spot in Sunday’s Pole Day session and Ed Carpenter Racing a chance to secure VeeKay his fourth consecutive front-row start at Indianapolis.

And all because Broyles had enough faith in his driver’s abilities.

“This was a total team effort to get the No. 21 car into the Fast 12,” Broyles said in a team release. “When you look at the work that went in to get that car on the race track and all the different color shirts working on the car, that is a testament to our whole team. These guys deserve to see that car in the Fast 12 and I am really proud of that. I am proud of this whole team and it is a team victory.” 

If VeeKay is among the six fastest drivers in Sunday’s top 12 Qualifying session, he will participate in the Firestone Fast Six to set the first two rows of the 2024 Indianapolis 500.

About the author

Christopherdeharde

Christopher DeHarde has covered IndyCar racing and the Road to Indy for various outlets since 2014. In addition to open wheel racing, DeHarde has also covered IMSA and various short track racing events around Indiana. Originally from New Orleans, DeHarde moved to the Indianapolis area in 2017 to further pursue a career as a motorsports writer.

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