Rinus VeeKay wins second St. Peterburg Indy Lights race

Leave a comment

A late-race caution bunched the field and allowed Zachary Claman DeMelo to close on leader Rinus VeeKay in Race 2 of Indy Lights portion of the IndyCar opener on the streets of St. Petersburg. VeeKay held him at bay in a four-lap shootout to end to win his first Indy Lights race in only his second career start.

With seven laps remaining in the race, Robert Megennis brought out a caution after slapping the wall while running fifth. That wiped out a seven-second lead for VeeKay and bookended the race with drama.

The race started with fireworks. On Lap 1, VeeKay was passing pole sitter Oliver Askew on the outside of Turn 1. That put him out of line for the next corner and after clipping the curb, he bounced into Askew and sent him into the wall and out of the race. Askew was coming off a third-place finish on Saturday in Race 1. He finished last in 10th.

“It was overall a great race,” VeeKay said on NBC Sports Gold after the race. “A little touchy at the start, but that’s racing. I feel sorry for Oliver for retiring from the race. The rest of the race was great.”

We need to “put it behind us and we’re going to go to a couple of tracks where we’re really fast and see what happens.” Askew said.

With this win, VeeKay is the eighth driver to win in all three levels of the Road to Indy, joining Matthew Brabham, Victor Franzoni, Jay Howard, Nico Jamin, Sage Karam, Spencer Pigot and Aaron Telitz

Coming off a win on Saturday, Claman DeMelo finished .633 seconds behind VeeKay.

“The goal was to win both races and leave here with the points lead, so I’m happy to have the latter, but disappointed to not get the win today,” Claman DeMelo said. “I was like a kid in a candy shop near the end, because I had plenty of push-to-pass left and I was going to use them to get by Rinus, but he did a good job to keep me back there. I had a few big moments through Turn Four and almost lost it, but I gave it everything I had. I haven’t raced since Toronto (in 2018) and haven’t done much testing, so as the season goes on, I’ll get better and I’ll learn how to manage the tires better.”

Toby Sowery finished third on Sunday and was second on Saturday. He does not currently have a full-season deal and is not scheduled to race in the next event at Circuit of the Americas.

David Malukas and Julien Falchero rounded out the top five.

The Indy Lights Series returns to the track at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas on March 23. It can be seen on NBC Sports Gold.

Click here for complete results

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

View from the pits: Reporters’ picks for the 103rd Indianapolis 500

INDYCAR / Jason Porter
Leave a comment

It’s Race Day in Indianapolis, and for the first time, the Indianapolis 500 will be on NBC.

Time will tell what impact Mother Nature has on today’s 103rd Running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. But no matter what, prerace coverage begins today on NBCSN at 9 a.m. ET, then transitions over to NBC at 11 a.m. ET.

All month long, the INDYCAR on NBC pit reporters have been bringing you the latest breaking news and stories for the Brickyard. Now, Kevin Lee, Kelli Stavast and Marty Snider share their insights from pit road. Read on …

KEVIN LEE

Throughout the last two weeks, one common theme has been, “Don’t crash.” There were five crashes, and four of those teams/drivers ended up in the Last Row Shootout. Two of the three bumped (Patricio O’Ward and Fernando Alonso) were in backup cars following heavy impacts.

Several drivers have consistently been among the strongest. Simon Pagenaud (pictured, left) not only starts on pole but has been strong in race trim as well. All three Ed Carpenter Racing cars are fast and appear good in traffic. Alexander Rossi looks like he can put his car wherever he wants, and Scott Dixon has five championships and 44 IndyCar wins, so he must be watched.

In order, my picks for most likely to drink the milk are Pagenaud, Rossi, Ed Carpenter, Will Power and Dixon.

KELLI STAVAST

A week ago, no one could have predicted that two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and McLaren Racing would be bumped from the Indy 500 by a single-car, part-time effort of Juncos Racing and its driver, Kyle Kaiser (pictured, right).  But it happened, and Kaiser now occupies the 33rd and final spot in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

So what next?  I spoke with Kyle five days after the dramatic qualifying effort, and he told me he has never been happier to finish last and that he is still “buzzing” from that experience—an energy he hopes to carry straight through to the race.  He also told me that the response from fans has been positive with people stopping him in public (including at Chipotle) to hug him and congratulate him on making the Big Show.

But reality might have set in for the Californian who now lives in Indy.  During Carb Day’s final practice, the team struggled to get a good handling car for Kyle, who described the day as “challenging.”  But Kaiser also acknowledged that the team made some progress throughout the practice and at the very least collected some data that might help for the 500-miler on Sunday.

Whether he finishes 1st or 31st on Sunday, Kyle Kaiser and Juncos Racing will have plenty of fond memories to carry with them from the 103rd Indy 500.

MARTY SNIDER

First, we cannot wait to bring you guys the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. It’s an honor for our entire group to broadcast such an amazing event.

So what do we expect? I have no idea, to be honest. The weather will be a huge factor today. It might be a race to halfway if rain is forecast.  If it’s cooler (mid 70’s ambient, which it looks like it’s going to be), Alexander Rossi (pictured, left) was unstoppable in those conditions last Monday.

But Rossi was very unhappy with his car on Carb Day. For that matter, most teams were. But Rob Edwards of Andretti Autosport explained a few things to Rossi about all of the experimenting they were doing in final practice, and I think that team is in a much better frame of mind heading into the race.

I find it interesting that Simon Pagenaud’s team scuffed in literally every set of tires they will use for today’s race. The No. 22 camp is convinced (and they’re not wrong) that one of the keys to Will Power’s 2018 win was his ability to gain time on out laps after pit stops. Scuffing in tires helps that out lap time. It also allows teams to do a balance check on tires. Good thing they did: Kyle Moyer of Team Penske found two sets that had vibrations, which would have been bad in the race.

Bottom line, I haven’t seen anyone really stand out and show me they can beat Alexander Rossi yet. So I’m going with Rossi to win his second Indy 500.

Enjoy the show friends. It’s going to be a fantastic race!