Dutch driver Rinus Veekay will drive his third Indy 500 this Sunday with Ed Carpenter Racing and he is feeling more confident than ever that he can claim his first mini Borg-Warner Trophy this May. The 21-year-old driver has delivered strong qualifying results throughout his IndyCar career over the past three seasons on the 2.5-mile oval. Veekay now holds the record for the third fastest 4 -lap average speed recorded in Indy 500 history after soaring to the top of the fast twelve on the first day of qualifying.
Although speed has been one of Veekay’s strong qualities on the famous oval in Indianapolis, his race day results have not matched his qualifying results for the Indy 500. The Dutchman qualified fourth his rookie year and placed 20th when he made his Indy 500 debut. Last year Veekay made it to the top three for qualifying and ended up in the top ten in eighth position. For the 2022 Indy 500, Veekay will start on the first row in third position next to Chip Ganassi drivers Alex Palou and Scott Dixon.
Ahead of the 106th Indy 500, Veekay spoke to selected media including Mototlat about his confidence level and the mistakes he has learned from his previous two Indy 500 races.
“I'm very comfortable,” Veekay said regarding his comfort level with his Chevy-powered car.
“We've had some hot practices in the last week. So yeah, I feel very good with the car, I think I can pass and I'm comfortable experimenting, trying other stuff. I've never felt this good with the car.”
When asked about what he and the team are doing differently for this Indy 500, the Dutch driver reflected on his previous oval race at the Indianapolis motor speedway.
“So I'm well aware that during race day, you only have to lead one lap. And that's the last one. So I think last year I was a little bit too eager, well leading the 500 of course,so who says no to that. I love that and I said I used a little bit too much fuel.”
Veekay also revealed that he paid close attention to Penske driver Josef Newgarden at the Texas Motor Speedway short oval track earlier this season.
“ I think really looking at Josef in Texas, made me realize he was just hanging back, he was in a top three, four or five. And you wouldn't see him all race he was he was just there and then whenever he needed to attack, he had more fuel and more tires than anyone else.
“So I think that really opened my eyes and I think that is something I can you know, kind of mimic maybe for the race.”
The Ed Carpenter Racing driver discussed how significant it was to have the Texas Motor Speedway race as a precursor for the Indy500 as a confidence booster and for learning the valuable lesson that leading is not always the best way to win a race.
“It was way more important than I expected. I really built so much confidence in Texas and that's also where I found out that leading is not always the smartest thing to do and, you know, that's where I also saw with Joseph.
“It opened my eyes and I think it really was another big lesson for me as a driver that I can take advantage of to win the 500”.
Veekay admitted if he was still a rookie then he would agree that the Indy 500 would favor the young drivers over the veteran ones. However, after completing two Indy 500 races, the driver from the Netherlands believes that his experience and knowledge from those races have been a huge factor in his comfort level with his No. 21 Chevy.
“If I was a rookie, I would agree. But I don't see myself as a rookie anymore. I've had two 500s so far. I've learned a lot throughout the years and I think I'm really comfortable from the 500 here last year to now.
“I think it's been a steep uphill curve. So I have, I've learned a lot and I think I really have what it takes right now to win the 500.”