Ed Carpenter Racing has announced today that the 2019 Indy Lights series vice-champion, Rinus VeeKay, will be moving up to the NTT IndyCar Series for 2020. The Dutchman will replace Spencer Pigot in the #21 ECR Chevrolet and will race in all seventeen rounds of the 2020 season.
Rinus has spent the last few years on the Road to Indy, stepping up to the USF2000 series in 2017 and finishing in second-place; only beaten by his fellow rookie of the year contender next season, Oliver Askew. VeeKay moved up to Pro Mazda in 2018 and took the title, this time beating Askew to the crown, with both finally moving up to Indy Lights for 2019; with VeeKay and Askew switching places again when Oliver took the title at the end of the year.
VeeKay experienced his first taste of IndyCar earlier this season when he took part in a test with Ed Carpenter Racing at Portland International Raceway, which was soon followed by a second outing at Mid-Ohio. The test must have gone well for Rinus, as today’s announcement confirms that he will replace Pigot at the team for 2020.
In the announcement today, VeeKay expressed his excitement regarding his move up to IndyCar and would go on to give thanks to his many long term sponsors from the Netherlands who have stuck with him throughout his rise through the Road to Indy ranks.
“I’m so happy!” VeeKay said today. “It’s a dream come true and something we have worked extremely hard for over the last couple of years. To step up from USF2000 to the NTT IndyCar Series in three years is really special.
“I would like to thank Ed Carpenter and his partners for this great opportunity and trust. The number of available seats in the NTT IndyCar Series is very limited, so it’s a great honour that they have chosen me to join their team. I would like to thank Jumbo, La Place, KNAF TeamNL, my new partner Basic-Fit, all my other partners, my manager Charles Crews, but most all my family who made this all happen. I’m really looking forward to the start of the season.”
VeeKay’s new boss, Ed Carpenter, also expressed his excitement in today’s announcement, stating that he was very impressed with the Dutchman’s aptitude in his two tests with the team earlier this year.
“I have been following Rinus’s path through the Road to Indy, especially the past two years,” said Carpenter. “It was clear to me that he deserves to be in an Indy car. After his first day in a car at Portland this past season, that feeling became even more apparent. His pace, feedback and demeanour inside the car was very impressive for such a young driver.”
For the last few years, Ed Carpenter Racing’s two-car driver line-up has usually been filled by three drivers. The #21 car is usually taken by a full-time driver, which will continue next year following the signing of VeeKay. The #20 car, however, is usually occupied by Ed Carpenter for the oval races, with another driver taking the wheel for the road course and street circuit rounds.
Carpenter has already announced that he will be returning to the #20 car for the oval races next year, but it has yet to be announced who will take his place for the road course and street circuit rounds. Over the last few days, it has been heavily rumoured that Nico Hulkenberg, who will almost certainly be without a drive on the Formula 1 grid next season, would be taking the seat; however, Carpenter dismissed his possibility a few days ago.
“Yes, I will be continuing as oval driver in the #20 Chevy next season,” said Carpenter in an interview with motorsport.com, “It’s amazing: every year someone starts a rumour or predicts that I’m retiring, but that’s absolutely not the case.
“Maybe we’ll have the other #20 driver confirmed just before Thanksgiving, but most likely it will be the week after. But no, it’s not Nico Hulkenberg. Those rumours had gotten a little out of control, to be honest – even though neither of us said anything!
“To be honest, I did speak with Nico a couple of times, and I think he was intrigued by the prospect of coming to IndyCar, but I just don’t think the timing was right for him. I don’t think he would come over if he was just filling time, waiting to maybe get back into Formula 1 in 2021. I think he would evaluate it more and decide whether he really wanted to make a change and then commit to IndyCar for longer. And I don’t think he’s there yet.”
The 2020 NTT IndyCar Series will kick-off with the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, March 15.