Rinus VeeKay breaks finger in hard crash early in Indy 500 test before rain halts session


A contrite Rinus VeeKay was cleared to drive after breaking a finger during a hard crash early in the Indy 500 test Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The Ed Carpenter Racing driver was first on track and lost control of his No. 21 Dallara-Chevrolet entering Turn 1 just minutes after the two-day session at the 2.5-mile oval went green at 11 a.m.

“I’m OK; my hand’s a little beat up, but I’m all right,” VeeKay told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee during the Peacock broadcast. “I can drive again. I want to say sorry to the team, of course. The start of the test and wanted to do as many laps as possible and be successful. Just ended extremely early here. So very, very unfortunate. I’m very sorry. But it was a very weird moment.”

NBC Sports pit reporter Marty Snider reported Friday that VeeKay broke the index finger on his left hand and would be seeing a hand specialist to fit a brace for driving in the April 18 season opener at Barber Motorsports Park. VeeKay later stopped by the NBC Sports set Friday for an interview and said he was confident his driving at Barber would be unaffected by the injury.

Snider said Ed Carpenter Racing decided to focus on its other two cars in testing Friday at IMS rather than rush to repair VeeKay’s Indy 500 primary car. The car’s tub avoided a crack, but the damage was extensive, and the team’s backup was its primary car for Barber.

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HOW TO WATCH ON PEACOCK: Details for the two-day Indy 500 test

Despite a morning rain, Thursday’s test started on time with a dry track but with a heavy headwind from the south down the front straightaway. IndyCar on NBC analyst Townsend Bell said such a wind direction is unusual during typical Indy 500 practice and race conditions in May and possibly caught VeeKay off guard with unexpected understeer in Turn 1.

“Indy should be flat and have a tailwind in (Turn) 3, so it should be very safe going flat out into 1 with headwinds,” VeeKay told Lee outside the care center. “And I did that, and it felt good on entry, and then from mid-corner, the front dipped down, and I lost it. So once that happens, you’re a passenger.

“I’m going to go back to the trailer now and see what happened exactly, yeah. Just leave this behind and make sure we only learn from this and go better onward.”

“He’s still young, as much as you talk about things, sometimes you have to make mistakes for yourself,” team owner Ed Carpenter told Snider in a Thursday interview during IndyCar on NBC coverage. “I’ve been there. A lot of us have been there. The good and bad of it is he is a super confident kid with a lot of ability, sometimes that leads to mistakes like that just getting a little ahead of himself. He was the first car out and was probably just a little aggressive today.”

VeeKay had the only incident in an abbreviated day of testing, but other drivers did take note of the wind. Alexander Rossi said the gusts weren’t overly disruptive to the cars’ aerodynamics.

“With the amount of downforce we have on, no, it’s not a big deal,” Rossi told Lee in a pit lane interview. “If we were doing qualifying sims, it would be pretty terrifying, actually, but you’re on race-level downforce, so it’s pretty manageable.”

Carpenter said the crash would affect the team’s rotation of cars, “but we’ve got a lot of very good people at Ed Carpenter Racing, and we’ll get it put back together and be ready to go.”

Last season, VeeKay crashed twice at Texas Motor Speedway in the season’s opening weekend but rebounded to capture a pole position at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on the way to being named the 2020 IndyCar Rookie of the Year. He also qualified fourth for the 2020 Indy 500.

TESTING RESULTS: Click here for veteran speeds Thursday

After just under 90 minutes, the test was halted by another shower that soaked the IMS surface, cutting short the final 30 minutes of practice for veterans. The two-hour Rookie Orientation Program, scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET, also was on hold.

After a lengthy delay, IMS reopened at 6 p.m. ET for an hourlong Rookie Orientation Program and refresher that ended at around 7:10 p.m.

ROOKIE ORIENTATION PROGRAM: Click here for speeds Thursday

The news wasn’t all bad Thursday for ECR as VeeKay’s teammates, Conor Daly (222.714 mph) and Ed Carpenter (221.296), ranked 1-2 atop the speed chart shortly before the rain.

Daly and Carpenter both said during IndyCar on NBC coverage that their fast laps came in the draft.

“It’s always nice,” Carpenter said. “At this stage, we ran so few laps and a lot of guys hadn’t run, so don’t read too much into it just yet. We both had tows, but the initial feel is pretty good. I think the team has done a nice job over the winter. We had one good horse last year, and we need three.”

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.

On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.

Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)