Rinus VeeKay is within reach of realizing a lifelong dream of competing in the NTT IndyCar Series.
The 18-year-old Dutch product will step into the cockpit of the No. 20 Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing today at Portland International Raceway.
“It’s the greatest feeling I’ve had in a very long time,” VeeKay said. “I’ve had so many nights that I would dream about driving an Indy car and now it’s really going to happen. It’s going to be a big spike in my career!”
The opportunity comes after having an impressive season while driving the No. 21 Juncos Racing Dallara IL-15 in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, the top rung of the three-tier Road to Indy development ladder system sanctioned by INDYCAR. Through 13 of 18 rounds, VeeKay has scored an impressive three wins, nine podiums and three poles en route to second in the overall championship standings.
Ed Carpenter, the owner/driver of Ed Carpenter Racing, said he spoke with VeeKay last year about testing together, “but the timing just didn’t work out.”
“I think it's beneficial for us as a team on multiple fronts: One, we get to evaluate a young driver that's really shown a lot of promise in the Road to Indy ladder series; Two, testing is so restricted now it's a way for us to get an extra test day for the team,” Carpenter said.
“Our primary drivers don't get to drive, but we can still go out to Portland. By running Rinus, it's an additional test day that we wouldn't have otherwise gotten. It's a win for the team in that regard. It's also a win for the series because it gives opportunities to those Indy Lights guys to get a chance to not only show us what they can do, but they can also use that to show up, showcase their talents to other teams as well.”
Additionally, Carpenter, a three-time race winner in IndyCar, wanted to bring someone in from Indy Lights that wasn’t attached to a rival team.
“All the other guys at the top of the championship that had been running really well are with Andretti,” Carpenter said. “(VeeKay) drives for Juncos, which they're not really running a full IndyCar season anymore. To me, he looked like the best guy available for us to do a test with that wasn't associated with another IndyCar team.”
One of those is Indy Lights points leader Oliver Askew, who will join VeeKay at the Portland test. The rookie will test with Chip Ganassi Racing. Also on track will be Andretti Autosport regulars Alexander Rossi, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Zach Veach.
Also today, Josef Newgarden (Team Penske) and Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) will be part of Firestone’s test at Texas Motor Speedway.
There is no mistaking how significant of a step up is this is for VeeKay. An Indy Lights car is powered by a 2-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder which produces 450 hp, while the Dallara IR-18 in IndyCar is equipped with a 2.2-liter, turbocharged V6 that operates up to 700 hp.
So, while the prospect of potential talent brings excitement, Carpenter is taking a more methodical approach.
“You manage the expectations because we've seen a lot of guys go from Indy Lights to IndyCar and sometimes there's a big surprise with how well they perform in an Indy car,” Carpenter said. “RC Enerson wasn't super strong in Indy Lights but he got in an Indy car and was really strong. You've seen other guys that are really strong in Indy Lights get in and maybe don't do as well. So it's hard to really know what to expect, but I think (VeeKay) has shown enough promise that he looks to have the potential to be about ready to take a step. We'll evaluate that. We'll obviously have a test list of things that we want to try to learn as a team, which will be beneficial to him just to understand how a team operates.
“Hopefully, he's competitive and can help us get prepared for that race as a team, even though he won't be racing there.”
Overall, VeeKay has 13 wins and 29 podiums throughout his three years in the Road to Indy, which includes a dominant 2018 campaign to capture the Indy Pro 2000 Championship presented by Cooper Tires (middle rung). Although competing in IndyCar has been a lifetime in the making, he isn’t looking beyond this testing debut.
“My main goal is to show my professionalism and quality’s as a driver and as a team player,” VeeKay said.
“I will try to make myself better at the test, but also provide the team with valuable information for the remainder of the 2019 NTT IndyCar season.”
Next up for the NTT IndyCar Series is the Aug. 18 race at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. The ABC Supply 500 is the first of four races to close the 2019 season. NBCSN will have the television coverage at 2 p.m. ET (green flag at 2:45 p.m. ET). The Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network provides the radio call, with coverage on SiriusXM Radio (XM 209, Sirius 98, Internet/App 970).