Rinus VeeKay rebounding well from ‘the biggest setback in my career’


Rinus VeeKay was unfamiliar with oval racing before his inauspicious IndyCar debut June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway, where he wrecked two cars in roughly seven hours.

But the rookie Dutchman was familiar with the consequences for “the biggest setback I’ve had in my career.

“It’s like being young: you do something wrong and your parents, they make sure you don’t do it ever again,” VeeKay, 19, said Tuesday in a news conference via Zoom. “Yeah, we had a month to work on it, make sure my preparation was as good as it could get.”

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The youngest driver in the NTT IndyCar Series rebounded from the last-place finish in his debut with an impressive fifth place (after starting 18th) last Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

After a month of poring over onboard data, VeeKay made sure to avoid overstepping the boundaries as practice began at Indy – learning from his mistake of going below the white line 15 minutes into practice at Texas.

“I just started off with braking points that were safe for me,” the Ed Carpenter Racing driver said. “I started easy. Moments where I thought, ‘If I go further, it will snap or I will lose the car,’ I just built it up very slowly.

“At the end of the weekend, I got a top five in my second INDYCAR race. Very happy with it.”

Certainly happier than Texas, where VeeKay went into the high lane against the advice of teammate and car owner Carpenter, who delivered a nationally televised scolding in a politely firm and very public manner.

“Everything I kind of asked Rinus to do, he didn’t really do,” Carpenter said in the NBCSN postrace show. “I wanted him to just be patient, be careful. Last thing I told him before the race was, ‘Don’t go high.’ So we’ve got a little work to do there on the sponginess of him, but he can drive the car. He was coming forward with virtually no practice and never running an oval IndyCar race. He’s going to get there, it’s just going to be challenging here at times. But we still love him.”

VeeKay’s first season in IndyCar already had gotten off to a rough start before he climbed behind the wheel of the No. 21 Dallara-Chevrolet.

He was in Europe in May when IndyCar confirmed its 2020 schedule would begin at Texas. Because of travel restrictions from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, VeeKay was unable to enter the United States.

He flew to Mexico instead and spent two weeks quarantining in Cancun while desperately trying to secure an entry visa through the help of his ECR team and IndyCar (which enlisted the help of Indiana Sen. Todd Young).

The stressful ordeal meant “many weeks of no sleep” for VeeKay, who arrived in Texas only a few days ahead of the race.

“That wasn’t ideal,” he said. “I think that kind of affected my focus throughout the (Texas) weekend.”

Road America will be a much more welcoming environment — it was the site of his first U.S. victory in the USF2000 Series in 2017 (part of a weekend sweep that kicked off a string of 16 victories and 36 podium finishes in 48 starts over three seasons in the Road to Indy ladder series).

Last year, he started on the pole position in both Indy Lights races at Road America, winning the second.

“Road America is my all-time favorite track,” he said. “I cannot wait to go there and drive one of the quickest cars in the world on that track.

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing

Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.