(INDIANAPOLIS) July 4, 2020 – Race Notes
Rinus VeeKay felt he had much left to prove after his NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut last month and he did so today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In only his second Indy car start, the rookie earned his first Top 5 finish. Conor Daly completed the 80-lap GMR Grand Prix with only two pit stops, but the second half of the event proved difficult for saving fuel. However, he still managed a 12th place result in his first race of 2020 in his U.S. Air Force Chevrolet.
VeeKay was left with the 18th starting position after yesterday’s qualifications. While he anticipated having two laps at speed on a set of red Firestone Firehawks, he was only able to get one in before the checkered flag and was much farther down the order than he hoped. Daly’s car came alive during his runs on red tires and he would ultimately advance to the second round of qualifications, earning the 8th spot on the starting grid.
VeeKay was the first of the 26-car field to make a pit stop in this afternoon’s GMR Grand Prix, bringing the No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet in on Lap 5. Committed to a three-stop strategy, he took the first available opportunity to switch from the black Firehawks he started on to a set of reds. He fell to 26th, but the early stop paid dividends as he reached the Top 10 only 15 laps later. The story was much the same after his second pit stop on Lap 31 and he immediately carved his way up through the field again.
The No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet team committed early to a two-stop strategy. Daly steadily moved up the order as cars planning on three stops came in for the first time. Daly would climb as high as second and was third at the time of his pit stop on Lap 26. The only caution flag flew ten laps later and the course was yellow from Lap 36 to Lap 39. Neither VeeKay or Daly elected to pit under the caution, knowing that it would not be enough to get them to the end. Daly would take the Lap 40 restart from the 3rd position.
Daly struggled to hold off the cars behind him on fresher tires, eventually having to let several pass so he could continue to save fuel. However, he held on to the 7th position until he was able to make his second and final stop on Lap 53 for a set of sticker red Firehawks. Near the conclusion of the race, the 28-year-old would have to concentrate on saving fuel once again to make it to the end. He would eventually be only of only three drivers that were able to complete the race on only two stops and finished 12th.
VeeKay had restarted the race in 6th, but moved into the Top 5 by passing Daly on Lap 43. VeeKay’s third pit stop took place on Lap 55 and he rejoined the field 14th. As everyone made their final stops, the 19-year-old cycled back to the front. He would rejoin the Top 5 by Lap 63, where he would stay for the remainder of the race. Despite many late race charges from the car behind, VeeKay held on to the position and finished 5th.
The second round of the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season was one of firsts for VeeKay and Daly. It was the first time VeeKay had been on track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an Indy car on either the road course or the oval. VeeKay would earn his first career Top 5 finish in his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES road course race. The GMR Grand Prix marked Daly’s first race with Ed Carpenter Racing. Daly was set to make his debut with the team in the streets of St. Petersburg in March, but had to wait until today to race the U.S. Air Force Chevrolet for the first time this year.
Next weekend, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES heads to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The rescheduled Road America weekend will now feature two full-length, points paying races. Daly and VeeKay will race on both Saturday, July 11 and Sunday, July 12. Road America will be the first track to welcome back INDYCAR fans and will provide all active-duty first responders with a free entry. Under the guidance of public health officials, medical experts and local, state and federal authorities, INDYCAR and Road America will observe safe social distancing practices and provide enhanced hygiene and safety precautions for all fans attending the event.
CONOR DALY, No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet, Finished 12th: “We had a really good start; really, a good first half of the race. I was happy with the car at the beginning, but fuel saving was tough for us. We had a bit of a difficult strategy call to make from there. But you know what, we put some points on the board, we hung with it, we’re still in the fight. Happy to get Race 1 with the U.S. Air Force Chevrolet under our belts!”
RINUS VEEKAY, No. 21 SONAX/Autogeek Chevrolet, Finished 5th: “I drove the best race of my whole career! The team just gave me a great car, great strategy to go from P18 to P5. I drove my butt off! I have never been this tired after a race, but that’s what you get when you give 110 percent. Thank you to my guys and everyone at SONAX and Autogeek. I’m the happiest guy on earth right now!”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!