RINUS VEEKAY OVERCOMES FIRST LAP INCIDENT TO FINISH 6TH IN SEASON OPENER
VeeKay Completes First NTT INDYCAR SERIES Race at Barber Motorsports Park; Conor Daly Finishes 16th
(LEEDS, Ala.) April 18, 2021 – Race Notes
– Rinus VeeKay found himself at the back of the field following a Lap 1 incident at Barber Motorsports Park; 90 laps later, he took the checkered flag in the 6th position. Smart strategy and a strong run from VeeKay launched him back into the front half of the field and he continually improved throughout the race. Conor Daly persevered through a tough second half of the race, gaining positions as he could and ultimately finishing 16th.
– Today’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama was Daly’s first NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at Barber Motorsports Park since 2017. Two strong practices segued into a qualifying session which saw Daly advance to the second round and earn the 10th spot on the starting grid. VeeKay missed advancing to Round 2 by a mere 0.048 seconds and began today’s race from the 14th position.
– A multi-car incident occurred only five turns into the season opener. Daly was just ahead of the first car to spin and was unaffected. VeeKay’s crew readied a spare front wing, but a change was not necessary as his only damage was a flat left front. He was forced to take emergency service in a closed pit lane and had to drop to the back of the field as the last car running. On the Lap 7 restart, Daly was 8th and VeeKay was 19th.
– Three laps later, another yellow flag flew. It proved beneficial for VeeKay as he was able to duck into the pit lane and top off on fuel. As other cars made their first stops, VeeKay began to cycle forward. On Lap 24, the decision was made to have Daly complete the race on a three-stop strategy. He had started the race on a set of sticker red Firestone Firehawks and selected sticker black tires for his next stint.
– Because of VeeKay’s early top off, he was able to stay out until Lap 37 and cycle up to 2nd. After his first green flag pit stop, he re-entered the field in the 10th position, just ahead of Daly. Daly’s second pit stop came shortly thereafter, on Lap 41. Though an issue on the pit stop cost him only a few seconds seconds, it was the equivalent to several track positions. He re-entered the race in 18th and was tasked with pushing hard to keep the leaders behind him. Even while concentrating on that, Daly picked up two positions before his third stop. He held his lead lap standing and the 16th position until the conclusion of the race.
– Meanwhile, VeeKay used his new track position to his advantage and continued to charge forward. His pace was enough that by Lap 63, he had cycled into the lead of the race and set his fastest lap of the day. He relinquished the position one lap later, making his final pit stop. He re-entered the field in 7th but was not done yet. In the closing laps, VeeKay passed Marcus Ericsson for the 6th position, where he would take the checkered flag in his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at Barber Motorsports Park.
– Next weekend, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES heads back to St. Petersburg, Florida, where the 2020 season concluded in the downtown city streets six months ago. The first practice session will take place Friday night, followed by another on Saturday morning. All sessions will be streamed live on NBC Peacock Premium, including qualifying on Saturday afternoon at 1:45 p.m. ET. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be broadcast live on NBC at 12 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 25.
CONOR DALY, No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet, Finished 16th: “We had a good start and got into the Top 8. We felt pretty competitive at the beginning, but we just weren’t able to keep the pace we needed to make a two-stop strategy work. We lost a bit of time in the pits, but those things happen. It was disappointing and there are some things I need to figure out with this car, but overall I think we were strong this weekend. We qualified well, which was really nice. Hopefully, we get some good information from today and can be better at St. Pete next week.”
RINUS VEEKAY, No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet, Finished 6th: “It was a crazy race here in Barber! I got into a lot of trouble on the first lap, I had a flat tire and ended up all the way in the back. However, the team was awesome at strategy, the car felt awesome and I felt awesome. We had a great race, coming back to P6. We were so close to the Top 5, it was an awesome recovery. All I could wish for today! This is going to be the start of a great season. Happy me!”
- Previous CONOR DALY QUALIFIES IN THE TOP 10 AT BARBER MOTORSPORTS PARK
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