Rinus VeeKay told The Associated Press his return to the NTT IndyCar Series from a shoulder injury could happen in the July 4 race at Mid-Ohio.
The rising IndyCar star will miss Sunday’s race at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, but is determined to be back in the car and salvage his promising season for Ed Carpenter Racing driver. VeeKay was on a 75-mile training ride when he lost control of his bicycle, flew over the handlebars and landed so hard that he cracked his helmet and his left shoulder.
He said he twice nearly blacked out on the trail from the pain, and his trainer had to leave him to go to the main road and call an ambulance. He was taken to a hospital in Hobart, Indiana, where X-rays confirmed a broken collarbone.
“Everyone is very, very sure that I can drive in Mid-Ohio,” VeeKay said Thursday during a drive to Milwaukee, where he planned to have lunch with the CEO of Direct Supply, the company sponsoring his Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet this weekend at Road America.
Oliver Askew instead will drive the No. 21 for VeeKay at Road America in Askew’s second consecutive race as a substitute driver. Askew filled in for Felix Rosenqvist on Sunday in Detroit when Rosenqvist was injured in a crash a day earlier.
VeeKay also is at Road America all weekend supporting ECR and having fun with Askew while trying not to be upset to see someone else driving his car. The 20-year-old Dutchman scored his first career IndyCar victory in May on the road course at Indianapolis and is fifth in the standings, 56 points behind leader Pato O’Ward in a changing of the guard season of IndyCar.
“I think it’s going to be a little bit hard, of course, to get reminded once you see the cars take off,” VeeKay said. “I’m just going to be at the track trying to learn as much as possible and still be a big part of the team.”
VeeKay and his trainer, Raun Grobben, left Detroit following the IndyCar doubleheader and headed toward Chicago for their training ride Monday. VeeKay’s parents went to the beach while he and Grobben went for a ride that dipped into Indiana on a “trail with good asphalt. No cars, no motorcyclists, we were just the only ones out there and taking it easy, just chatting.”
He said he doesn’t know what caused him to lose control of his bike but that Grobben tried to grab him and stop the fall and suffered tire burns on his arm and knee.
“He’s like `Are you OK?’ and I said `Well, I think I broke my collarbone,’ ” Veekay said. “I just kept hoping it was pulled out of the socket or something.”
VeeKay acknowledged he was “a little bit scared to call my father” because he knew Marijn van Kalmthout was going to be angry.
“You know it takes a lot of effort (to make it in racing) and he was definitely not happy. I will just call it very upset,” VeeKay said. His parents picked him up and drove VeeKay and his trainer to Indianapolis, where VeeKay underwent surgery Tuesday to insert a plate in his collarbone.
VeeKay says his parents had been scheduled to be at Road America this weekend, but they have returned to the Netherlands because he is not racing.
VeeKay has since connected with two-time IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden, who broke his collarbone in a 2016 crash at Texas while driving for ECR. Newgarden had the same surgery and didn’t miss a race – he was back in the car at the next scheduled IndyCar event two weeks later and finished eighth.
“I talked to Josef about the pain and anything he felt when he was driving so I can prepare for that,” VeeKay said. “We are part of a very exclusive `Driving with a Titanium Collarbone Club.’ Josef thinks I am going to be all right and he looks pretty good the last few years, so a broken collarbone might be faster, who knows?”