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

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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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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.”