|(NEWTON, Iowa) July 18, 2020 – Race 1 Notes Rinus VeeKay returned to the site of his first-ever oval race tonight and showed the skill that vaulted him through the Road to Indy ranks. The 19-year-old rookie raced his way through tonight’s field, climbing as high as second before a crash under caution. The car behind VeeKay launched off of his left rear tire, immediately ending VeeKay’s day and leaving him with a result of 20th. Ed Carpenter fought an ill-handing race car for the majority of the race, but used years of experience to manage the situation and bring the No. 20 home. Carpenter would earn a 15th place finish tonight.|
Today’s on-track activity began with an hour and a half practice session. The first 30 minutes were reserved for rookies and first-time participants, which included VeeKay. The Ed Carpenter Racing rookie turned 123 laps in practice, nearly half of the race distance. He finished with the 8th fastest lap of the session at 169.353 mph. Carpenter was able to begin practice when it opened for all cars. He made 61 circuits of the track with a fastest of 166.534 mph.
Qualifying for the Iowa INDYCAR 250s utilized a unique format for the first time. While qualifying still consisted of two timed laps, the first lap after the green flag set the field for tonight’s Race 1 and the second lap – following the white flag – determined the field for Saturday’s Race 2. The qualification order for oval events is set in reverse order of entrant points, placing Carpenter 7th in the qualifying line and VeeKay in 10th.
For tonight’s Race 1, VeeKay was the highest qualified rookie and started the race from the 13th position. Carpenter was just one row behind, rolling off from 16th. VeeKay began a steady march up through the field and by Lap 20, he had reached the Top 10. VeeKay stayed out until Lap 68 and had climbed up to the 7th position. As he was one of the last cars to make his first pit stop, he cycled back to 19th. He used his new tires to mount the same charge. He worked through lead lap cars and lapped traffic equally, getting himself back to the front.
Carpenter slipped back on the start but by midway through his stint, he was turning laps faster than anyone in the field. Unfortunately, the leader was the next car behind. When ECR’s team owner made his first pit stop on Lap 62, he fell one lap behind the leader and was not able to make it up. The existing handling issues persisted throughout Carpenter’s second stint, especially when the No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet was in dirty air. Carpenter cycled into the Top 10 before his second stop, which he made on Lap 129.
The first caution flag of the night flew on Lap 144. VeeKay was running second behind eventual race winner Simon Pagenaud. Neither had made their second pit stops yet and were able to come in under the yellow flag on Lap 147. The restart was meant to take place on Lap 156, but the start was waved off coming to the green flag. VeeKay swung wide to avoid Pagenaud, who slowed with the rest of the field when start was called off. Colton Herta, who was behind VeeKay, launched off of VeeKay’s left rear tire, going up and over the cockpit of the No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet. VeeKay and Herta were both unhurt, but their races were over. VeeKay would be credited with a 20th place finish. For tomorrow’s Race 2 of the Iowa INDYCAR 250s, VeeKay will race his backup car.
Despite the difficulties which spanned the 250-lap race, Carpenter pushed through and managed to complete the race with a 15th place finish. ECR’s No. 20 entry is split between Conor Daly on the road and street courses and Carpenter on the ovals. Daly’s U.S. Air Force Chevrolet was scheduled to be in 13 of 17 events this year, but four of those races have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To make up for events that were missed, the No. 20 has stayed painted in U.S. Air Force colors for this weekend while Carpenter is behind the wheel.
As today’s second qualifying lap set the field for tomorrow’s race, Carpenter will start 14th and VeeKay in 15th. There will be a one-hour practice session, which will take place from 3:30-4:30 p.m. CT. Race 2 will also be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network with coverage beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET.
|ED CARPENTER, No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet, Finished 15th: “This has always been one of my favorite tracks, but I don’t remember ever having as difficult of a night here. I was excited to run the U.S. Air Force colors and want to do a good job for them. I’m embarrassed about the performance tonight. The good thing is we have another chance tomorrow, so long as it’s not a repeat. It was pretty brutal. It’s hot in the cars, it’s uncomfortable and with a poor performance, I am pretty disappointed.”|
RINUS VEEKAY, No. 21 SONAX/Autogeek Chevrolet, Finished 20th: “There was nothing I could have done. I had a good start, but I was told it was a no-start so I went off the throttle. I think the other car was too late getting that information, I really don’t know. I got hit, that’s clear. It’s very tough. We could have gone for a podium or a win today. We’ve got to go for it tomorrow. I’m happy that we’ll have a Take 2.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!