Daly’s Indycar Future Uncertain After USAF Drops Sponsorship

No more Flying Tiger or X-15 tribute cars,. The United States Air Force will not continue their sponsorship with Conor Daly and Ed Carpenter Racing. What does this mean for Daly and ECR? In an ironic twist, without the Air Force the future is up in the air.

The X-15 tribute car

The USAF liveries were some of the best in the 500 field the last couple of years. They will be missed.

The 2021 car, which honored the Tuskegee Airmen, was a fan favorite last May.

Daly says he has other sponsors that he has been developing, but is it enough? Will Carpenter still retain Daly for the number 20 road and street course program?

Daly has an option for a full time ride in NASCAR Trucks. he would still be available for the Indianapolis 500 if he goes that route, but his preference is to stay in Indycar.

Daly’s oval program with Carlin is also in doubt since the team has not announced their Indycar intentions for 2022.

I will have a silly season update later today.

VeeKay Stays at ECR for 2022

A news release from Ed Carpenter Racing:

RINUS VEEKAY TO REMAIN WITH ED CARPENTER RACING FOR 2022 INDYCAR SEASON
Young Dutch Talent Will Continue as Driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet for Third Year
(LONG BEACH, Calif.) September 26, 2021 – Ed Carpenter Racing announced today that Rinus VeeKay will officially remain with the team for the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season. The 21-year-old will continue as full-time driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet, a role he will now hold for a third season. When the 2021 season concludes today in the streets of Long Beach, VeeKay’s focus will immediately shift to 2022’s 17-race schedule. 
“I am very excited to have another season with Ed Carpenter Racing! We made so much progress this year, I had my first win in IndyCar and made many great memories. Next year, we can be better than we’ve ever been!” stated VeeKay. “We want to be championship contenders, to go for even better results, more frequent wins and podium finishes. The atmosphere at ECR is perfect for that, it feels like a group of friends who are eager to work hard for strong results. I am excited to continue that in 2022 and not having anything change!”
Raised in Hoofddorp, Netherlands, Rinus van Kalmthout began karting in 2009 at the age of 8. With sights set firmly on the pinnacle of North American open wheel racing, he transitioned to the Road to Indy in 2017 and launched his U.S. career driving as Rinus VeeKay. His rapid ascent through the RTI ranks included 16 wins and 36 podiums in 48 races. Those statistics propelled him to second place in the 2017 USF2000 standings, the 2018 Indy Pro 2000 title and a runner-up finish in the 2019 Indy Lights championship. Just four years into his career in the United States, VeeKay not only reached the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, but earned 2020 Rookie of the Year honors.
ECR team owner Ed Carpenter watched VeeKay’s progression through in the Road to Indy and selected the Dutch driver for his team in late 2019. VeeKay has been with ECR ever since and will make his 29th career start this afternoon. “I am very happy that Rinus will be back behind the wheel for ECR in 2022,” said Carpenter. “Rinus has continued to show that he has the talent and work ethic to be a champion and that’s the goal of our team. We look forward to more success next season!”
Though VeeKay is only two years into his NTT INDYCAR SERIES career, he has already built an impressive resume. In addition to his Rookie of the Year title, his debut season included his first pole position and first podium finish. In 2020, he recorded the best qualifying result by a teenager in Indianapolis 500 history by starting 4th; in 2021, he qualified 3rd and became the youngest front row starter in “500” history. In May of this year, VeeKay joined the ranks of NTT INDYCAR SERIES race winners. He earned his first career victory in the GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. 
VeeKay is grateful for the support he has received. “I want to thank Ed Carpenter for giving me the opportunity to drive for another season! Ed was the one that gave me the chance to be able to prove myself in IndyCar and I am very grateful to him.”  He continued, “Thank you to Tony George, Stuart Reed and the entire team, every single person who makes this possible. I am the one driving, but there is a whole team behind me working day a night to give me a good, reliable car. I also really appreciate the support of ECR’s partners, including SONAX and Direct Supply, for allowing us to work hard, improve and take a big step forward this offseason.”
A third year with the Indianapolis-based team will make VeeKay the longest-tenured full-time driver in Ed Carpenter Racing’s 10-year history. Since its inception in 2012, ECR has raced exclusively in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.  The team has shown versatility by earning eight wins on each style of track the series competes on – street and road courses, short ovals and speedways. ECR boasts 36 Top 5s to date, 23 of which have been podium finishes. For nine of their 10 Indianapolis 500s, ECR has had at least one car qualify in the first three rows. An ECR Chevrolet has sat on the front row seven of those years, including three pole positions by Carpenter (2013, 2014 and 2018).
The 2021 season concludes this afternoon with the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, broadcast live on NBC Sports Network at 3 p.m. ET. ECR’s 2022 campaign will the team continue to compete with two full-time entries, the No. 20 and No. 21. While the No. 21 will feature VeeKay for the full season, Carpenter will continue as oval driver of the No. 20 in his 20th season of Indy car competition. VeeKay’s third NTT INDYCAR SERIES SEASON will begin February 27, 2022 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.  
Rinus VeeKay will remain with Ed Carpenter Racing for the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season. The 21-year-old will continue as full-time driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet, a role he will now hold for a third season. A third year with the Indianapolis-based team will make VeeKay the longest-tenured full-time driver in ECR’s 10-year history. (INDYCAR Photo)
In May of 2021, Rinus VeeKay joined the ranks of NTT INDYCAR SERIES race winners. He earned his first career victory in the GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. One week later, he became the youngest front row starter in Indianapolis 500 history by qualifying 3rd. (DREAM Digital)
About Ed Carpenter RacingEd Carpenter Racing (ECR) has entered its 10th season of NTT INDYCAR SERIES competition in 2021. The Indianapolis-based race team has proven its versatility by collecting eight wins across each type of track the series competes on – street and road courses, short ovals and speedways. ECR is led by IndyCar’s only team owner/driver, Ed Carpenter, three-time pole winner for the Indianapolis 500 (2013, 2014 and 2018). In 2021, Indiana natives Carpenter and Conor Daly share the No. 20 Chevrolet as Carpenter drives the oval races and Daly takes over for the road and street course events. Both were entered in the Indianapolis 500 alongside 2020 Rookie of the Year Rinus VeeKay, full-time driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet. ECR is active in the eSports arena as part of the iRX World Championship. More information may be found at http://www.edcarpenterracing.com/.

VeeKay Cleared to Drive; Returns at Mid Ohio

Photo from ECR Twitter account

The Indycar grid is now back intact as Rinus Veekay joins Felix Rosenqvistat Mid Ohio this weekend. Both drivers missed road america because of injuries. Rosnqvist also missed Detroit Race 2 after his accident in Race 1. The announcement from Ed Carpenter Racing:

INDIANAPOLIS (June 30, 2021) – Rinus VeeKay has been medically cleared to resume driving and will return to NTT INDYCAR SERIES competition this weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Following a cycling accident, VeeKay underwent successful outpatient surgery on June 15 to repair a fractured left clavicle. He was re-evaluated this afternoon and was given clearance to return to racing by Dr. Geoffrey Billows, INDYCAR’s director of medical services. VeeKay will be back in the No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet for this weekend’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.
VeeKay is eager to get back behind the wheel. “First, I need to say thank you to the INDYCAR medical staff, including Dr. Webber, who did my surgery. I am very excited to race this weekend at Mid-Ohio, especially after missing the last race at Road America. I am more motivated than ever!” stated VeeKay. He continued, “I have been working incredibly hard on my recovery, doing all kinds of treatment. I feel I will be right back at the level I was before. I sat in the car earlier this week to make sure I was comfortable and I was in the simulator yesterday, I have no pain and feel as good as ever.”
The 20-year-old is in the midst of a breakout sophomore season with Ed Carpenter Racing. VeeKay earned six Top 10 finishes in seven races, including his first career victory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in mid-May. One week later, he became the youngest front row starter in Indianapolis 500 history as he qualified 3rd. In his most recent event weekend, the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, VeeKay returned to the podium with a second-place finish in Race 1.
While VeeKay was recovering from surgery, Oliver Askew stepped into the No. 21 Chevrolet at Road America. Despite not being able to compete, VeeKay remains sixth in the overall championship standings. A solid performance by Askew at Road America has Ed Carpenter Racing’s No. 21 Chevrolet fourth in entrant points.
VeeKay will rejoin his teammate Conor Daly, road and street course driver of the No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet. The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio will be a three-day event, beginning with practice on Friday, July 2. Saturday, June 3 will consist of a second practice session, qualifying and final practice. The 80-lap race will be broadcast live on NBC, with coverage starting at 12 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 4.
About Ed Carpenter RacingEd Carpenter Racing (ECR) is in its 10th season of NTT INDYCAR SERIES competition in 2021. The Indianapolis-based race team has proven its versatility by collecting eight wins across each type of track the series competes on – street and road courses, short ovals and speedways. ECR is led by IndyCar’s only team owner/driver, Ed Carpenter, three-time pole winner for the Indianapolis 500 (2013, 2014 and 2018). In 2021, Indiana natives Carpenter and Conor Daly share the No. 20 Chevrolet as Carpenter drives the oval races and Daly takes over for the road and street course events. Both were entered in the Indianapolis 500 alongside 2020 Rookie of the Year Rinus VeeKay, full-time driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet. ECR made its eSports debut in the 2020 iRX World Championship with Jim Beaver eSports. More information may be found at http://www.edcarpenterracing.com/.

VeeKay Undergoes Surgery, Askew to Sub

From Ed Carpenter Racing :

[UPDATE] @RinusVeeKay underwent successful outpatient surgery to repair a fractured clavicle sustained in a cycling accident.

As RVK is not medically cleared to drive, @OliverAskew will take over the No. 21 @_DirectSupply car at @RoadAmerica.

More: https://t.co/GqonkCtImC https://t.co/SBVdtRi1wx

Still no word on who will drive the7 if Rosenqvist is not ready to return. More on this story tomorrow.

Daly Has Confidence Heading to Belle Isle

Photo by James Black, Indycar

Conor Daly enjoyed his time off from Indycar, but he is ready to head to Detroit for this weekend’s grand prix on Belle Isle. Daly loves this track, and he has had success here, with a second place and he also led laps at the race which follows the Indianapolis 500.

Daly’s Ed Carpenter Racing had a great May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with Rinus VeeKay winning the GMR Grand Prix, placing two cars in the Fast Nine, and Daly leading the most laps in the Indianapolis 500. Team owner Carpenter finished fifth, VeeKay eighth, and Daly 13th after a tire from Graham Rahal’s car damaged the nose of Daly’s car.

Despite losing a chance for the win, Daly remains upbeat and confident as the series heads to the halfway point of the 2021 season this weekend. In a very positive press availability Tuesday, Daly outlined his reason for his optimism.

“It’s one of my favorite tracks, even 2015there in the Arrow machine for Hinch after he had the mix-up with the wall at Indy. That was one of my most fun weekends, still to this day. In the rain, leading the race there up against those guys as a complete and utter rookie. I love the track. Love the race weekend. I think it’s done so well.”Daly believes the team has momentum, not necessarily from just the 500, but from the GMR Grand Prix as well.

“…what I look forward to most is the progress we made at the Indy GP. That’s what I’m most excited about. That is such a short weekend, you get right into oval stuff. We made a lot of progress there. I’m excited to see if we can continue that for another good run at Detroit.”

For the first time in his career, Daly is developing continuity with a team. He thinks that has contributed to his success in 2021.

“I think for years I’ve been talking about creating continuity. I think we see right now what continuity is doing for this whole group, both Rinus and I. We get better. Your goal as a driver is to improve constantly, work with your team to just keep building that pyramid up, keep going.Rinus is doing that. I think I’m doing that. I don’t think we’ve been able to obviously translate to results yet for several things that have been out of our control obviously. But we’re in the fight rather than a lot of the races last year we were nowhere even near the talk of anything. But now we’re putting ourselves up there.”

On the progress ECR has made from 2020 to this season, Daly said,

“Leaps and bounds. Massive, massive amounts of progress. Certainly for me personally because I kind of know, obviously not going to give away everything we’re doing, but I know that Rinus and I drive different cars, very different cars. A lot of the times we just haven’t been able to get what I needed out of it. It’s much easier for Rinus. He’s obviously very, very quick, very, very talented.”

Daly summed up his and the team’s approach for the rest of the season:

“We’re just going to keep going at it every weekend, trying to be the best we can be. I feel really good about myself and my team, yeah. That’s the goal, is to just be happy and be ready to execute every weekend.
I mean, I’ve learned a lot about myself I guess. I think I’ve also tried to do a lot of work on my own brain, which I think has been helpful because a lot of the stuff, when you look at a year going into it, none of this crazy stuff is going to happen, it’s just going to be great, every race is going to be great.All this crazy stuff has happened, and you can’t change your attitude. You have to go into Detroit, It’s going to be great, it’s going to be perfect, we’re going to execute.”

Indy Postscript- A Most Satisfying Day at IMS

Photo: Chris Owens, Indycar

A few more items from a great day at IMS:

I just watched the replay of the NBC broadcast of the GMR Grand Prix. I thought it was great coverage. I like the graphic showing which tire each car was using at the time and laps since pitted information. More of that, please.

The VeeKay family celebration on the victory podium was heart warming. We don’t often see a driver’s family enjoy the fruits of heir sacrifices to get a driver to the top of his profession.

How no one got into the marbles and spun is miraculous. the track was one large used rubber pile. VeeKay’s tires at the end show how much wear everyone’s tires had. this is a screen grab from Victory lane.

Rinus VeeKay drove the wheels off the car yesterday. He drove between Jimmie Johnson and Alex Palou to take second, and made a great pass on Grosjean to be in position to assume the lead when Dixon pitted.

The Battle for the Title

Alex Palou is the only driver to have led at least one lap in each of the five races to date. We are looking at a championship battle between teammates. Scott Dixon leads Palou by 13 points. Each has won a race. Dixon holds the tie breaker if it should come to that based on his St.Pete finish. I predict Palou will be this season’s first repeat winner.

Last Thoughts

Maybe it was because yesterday was the first may race with fans in attendance since 2019, but yesterday was one of the best days I have ever had at IMS. I’ve been there a couple times, but Saturday just had a very special feeling about it.

How odd that Ed Carpenter Racing’s first win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway should come on the road course. Carpenter’s cars are always very good on the oval. Is there another win for the team coming in two weeks?

Back tomorrow when my coverage of the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 begins. Thanks to all of you for following this weekend.

Quick Thoughts- GMR Grand Prix; These Kids Are Good

Using my infallible wisdom, I said in my pre season preview that we were one year away from seeing the younger generation of driver begin to take over the series. Next year is right now. Rinus VeeKay’s win today in the GMR Grand Prix at IMS adds to the burgeoning list of drivers who entered 2021 with two years or less experience. How have they done? Four wins, including three first winners, three poles, including one first time polesitter. The scary part is we are only about a third of the way through the season, and I have a feeling this group is only going to get better.

The average experience of the five different race winners, based on experience through 2020 is 5.6 years. Scott Dixon’s 20 years of racing makes the average as high as it is. Usually in a typical season, most newer winners come early in the year, and bymid June, the veterans take over and dominate the rest of the schedule. I have a fe3eling that isn’t going to happen in 2021.

VeeKay drove a steady race in his victory today. Pole winner Romain Grosjean also had a very good drive, but VeeKay caught him and had the better car the ;last half of the race.

Romain Grosjean earned his first career podium in Indycar

Random Thoughts

You had to feel for Conor Daly. He started fourth with a decent shot of winning today. The first lap kerfuffle left him stranded in turn 2. He finished 50 laps behind.

Speaking of tough breaks, Jack Harvey has had issues two races in a row. A failed wheel bearing in Texas knocked him out of a strong finish. Today a bad pit stop followed by a flat tire quashed his hopes of being in the fight at the end. He would have been there. Harvey will be another first time winner at some point this year.

Graham Rahal did a great job finishing fifth using an alternate strategy. The extra pit stop actually helped him gain ground.

It was nice to see Ryan Hunter-Reay leading some laps again. it has been a while. Andretti Autosport had one of their better days today. Alexander Rossi finished seventh, Hunter-reay 12th and Herta thirteenth.

This is the worst Grand Prix weekend at IMS I remember Will Power having. Power who usually is up front on this track, with multiple poles and wins, spun in qualifying and started twelfth. Power finished 11th but it wasn’t easy after several off track excursions.

I thought Juan Pablo Montoya was mostly in the way today. He held up the leaders a couple times, and showed very little speed.

Pato O’Ward had a weekend nearly as bad ashe did at St. Pete. the good news is that after his misadventure in Florida, he won at Texas. Could this pattern repeat?

Josef Newgarden seems to be lacking some pace this season. I’m not sure what the problem is.

I can’t recall another podium that had both a driver from Ed Carpenter Racing and one from Dale Coyne Racing.

I understand why IMS wants the winning car up on the podium, but the time it takes to get the car up there while the driver sits in it takes away from the spontaneity of he moment. Especially today, when we have a first time winner. I wanted VeeKay to jump out of the car imm3ediately and begin celebrating. The Victory Circle should not be staged.

Attendance was very good for the race today. I have never seen a crowd so happy. Racing at IMS returned to its proper May spot, and the fans were there. All seems right with the world tonight.

Thanks for following along this weekend. I will have a follow up story tomorrow.

Gossage to Step Down at Texas; ECR Gains May Sponsors

Photo of Eddie Gossage from TMS website

Eddie Gossage, president of Texas Motor Speedway, announced this morning that he will retire after the June 13 NASCAR All-Star race at TMS.

“The timing just feels right after 32 years with the company,” Gossage stated. “The Smith family and Speedway Motorsports changed my life and I will forever be appreciative and grateful.

 “Before my wife Melinda and I chart our next adventure, I’m thankful that I get to come full circle as a promoter with the NASCAR All-Star Race.”

Gossage has been a staunch supporter of Indycar racing at his facility throughout his 25 years as president of the track. There have been disputes with Indycar over dates and sanctioning fees, but Gossage made sure that the open wheel cars made at least one annual appearance in the Lone Star State.

His retirement might affect Indycar’s schedule in the long run. Texas Motor Speedway is the only track in Texas where Indycar races currently.

VeeKay, Daly Have New Sponsors

Today Ed Carpenter Racing unveiled new sponsorship which Conor Daly will run in this weekend’s GMR Grand Prix. MannKind Corporation will be the primary sponsor of the number 20 car for the fifth round of the NTT Indycar Series.

MannKind has developed an insulin product which is inhaled rather than injected. The “Tired of Pricks?” tagline is abit edgy. Try to keep it in context if you can.

From ECR news release

Rinus VeeKay’s number 21 will carry Bitcoin livery in the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Carpenter plans to use Bitcoin in his operation. From the news release:

“ECR will also be the first NTT INDYCAR SERIES team to integrate Bitcoin as a payment option for all of its employees. The first decentralized sponsorship in the history of racing will empower not only ECR on the track but the Bitcoin community off. In addition to the No. 21’s black and orange scheme, Bitcoin will be present on ECR’s other Indianapolis 500 entries..”

From ECR website

I’ll be back later with my GMR Grand Prix race preview.