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.

Daly’s 500 Car Honors Tuskegee Airmen

Conor Daly and Ed Carpenter Racing revealed Daly’s car for the Indianapolis 500 this morning. The car is a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen. I’m happy to see this squadron recognized at the 500. The car will keep the number 47 that it ran in the 500 last year.

Conor Daly at Barber. Photo-Joe Skibinski, Indycar

The US Air Force posted a video about the Tuskegee Airmen. Copy the link below:

As a homage to the original trailblazers, the Tuskegee Airmen, our newest paint scheme isn’t just a visual cue, but a reminder that great things can happen when we celebrate our differences. https://t.co/Lguc9b5vUS

Carpenter Set for a Busy Friday

Indycar photo by Joe Skibinski

Ed Carpenter was hoping to accomplish more today, but weather and a crash of one of his team cars shortened his plans. The open test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was shortened by rain and an incident involving one of Carpenter’s team cars.

Rinus Veekay crashed just 10 minutes into the open test, spinning low in turn 1 and then hiiting the outside wall. VeeKay broke a finger, but has been cleared to drive.

Of his second year driver, Carpenter said,

“He did so well at Indy last year, but got a little bit ahead of himself today. Didn’t quite have a feel for his balance, got a little bit too aggressive in one. I know he’ll bounce back. He’s shown that he can bounce back from unfortunate circumstances in the past. I know he’ll be ready when he gets back out there.”

VeeKay may not be on track Friday. The crew woill have to rebuild the car. Carpenter said they are unlikely to use the backup car since it is the car they will run in the first four races of the season, which begins next weekend at Barber Motorsports Park.

Carpenter and Conor Daly, the third member of Ed Carpenter racing, kept to their plan.

“Essentially we each just got a baseline run in. I only did nine laps. Happy the car has had some pace, we were able to get a good draft. At the same time it doesn’t really mean anything after just a brief period of running, and not everybody out there yet.”

The weather interruption didn’t bother him. After the constant schedule changes last year, this just another hiccup. Carpenter said about the shortened day,

“Don’t worry about it too much. Weather and changing schedules is something we’ve all gotten quite adept at over the past year. Looks like it’s going to be a better weather day tomorrow. The six hours will go quick. Some of the things we wanted to do, it would have been nice to have our session, lunch break, go back out and do some longer changeover types of things that we may have to scrap till we come back. If we can be efficient, we can still get through everything we wanted to, at least the big items.”

I asked Carpenter if he was able to run in traffic enough to see whether the aerodynamic changes improved the ability to follow and pass.

“No, not yet,” he replied. ” I got a one-car tow, but it was about seven seconds out, so not really a good enough read to start to fully establish that.We had some of the parts on, not all of them. There are a lot of different configurations out there. Definitely need more time. There’s really no group that formed in the short amount of time we had. Still plenty to learn. But I’m sure we’ll get through that tomorrow.”

Tomorrow’s weather calls for a high of 77 degrees with a small chance of rain. The temperature is closer to what conditions on race day could be.