Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay is confident he can contend for the win in Race 1 of the Harvest Grand Prix, after landing a shock pole position.
Last year’s Indy Lights runner-up VeeKay has regularly shown huge speed in his first IndyCar season, and currently leads the Rookie of the Year standings, but unlike newbie rivals Alex Palou and Oliver Askew, he has yet to score a podium finish.
With a lap that topped Group 2 in qualifying for Harvest GP Race 1 and put him well ahead of the best efforts of the red flag-compromised Group 1, the 19-year-old Dutchman has given himself the best possible shot of scoring a top-three finish.
Back in July, the Dutchman carved through the field to score his first top-five finish here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Showing similar confidence in this evening’s qualifying session, he edged star IndyCar sophomores Colton Herta and Felix Rosenqvist and veteran Marco Andretti by less than 0.1sec to take pole for Ed Carpenter’s team.
“Once I got out of the pits and got temperature in my tires, I was like ‘Wow…this is the car I need!’” said VeeKay. “I drove a good lap and made no mistakes.
“I think there was more in it, to be honest. I just used all the grip I had. It had great balance.
“It was a lot different than this morning [practice], so I think the cold track suits us. We can go for the win tomorrow.”
Championship aspirant and defending IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden of Team Penske will line up alongside VeeKay, but he said this will make no difference in his attitude to Turn 1 in tomorrow afternoon’s race.
“It doesn’t matter who starts next to me; I’m going to give it all I have,” said VeeKay. “Josef is a good driver and has a lot of experience. I’m a young guy and don’t know what to expect.
“I think that’s a good thing. I’m just going to go flat out into Turn 1.”
Despite very different cars, VeeKay observed that his experience in different Road To Indy classes may have helped him deal with the chilly conditions at IMS. With the session ending just before 7pm ET, the ambient temperature had fallen to 56degF, making it difficult to generate the necessary tire and brake temperatures.
“I’ve had a few Chris Griffis tests here in Indy Lights and the Road To Indy,” he said, referring to the annual Chris Griffis Memorial Tests held in the fall at IMS for all RTI categories. “It’s the same temperature here and same time of year.
“I know what to expect when the track is cold here. I’ve driven quite a few laps now on this track, so it definitely helps me.”
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