Ed Carpenter Racing‘s rookie, Rinus VeeKay has apologised after a crash during his first NTT IndyCar Series race ended both his and fellow rookie Alex Palou‘s debuts. VeeKay crashed on the exit of turn two on lap thirty-seven of the Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway, with Palou also being taken out when VeeKay’s car spun down the track and into his path. The crash would be VeeKay’s second of the day.
After a delayed start to the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series, there was much excitement around the upcoming battle between the three full-time rookies this season. ECR’s VeeKay and Dale Coyne Racing‘s Palou would go up against Arrow McLaren SP‘s Oliver Askew, with no one really knowing or being able to expect who might come out on top.
For the three rookies, the circumstances surrounding their debuts would be trickier than usual for IndyCar newcomers. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed back the season-opening race by several months and also forced the series to change venue from St. Petersburg to one of the fastest and most intense locations on the calendar; Texas Motor Speedway. The trio would have very little track-time in IndyCar, with all three last turning a wheel in anger during pre-season testing back in February and March.
These circumstances would mean that every lap of practice would be crucial. Thankfully, all three were set to be allowed an extra half an hour of practice. For VeeKay, however, his practice session would be all too short. Just twelve laps in, VeeKay would drive too low in the middle of turns three and four and would lose control after his car hit the apron. The car would be sent spinning into the outside wall, damaging the car enough to take him out of contention for qualifying later in the day; a consequence of the one-day format for the event.
VeeKay would have been hoping to just get as many laps under his belt in the race, especially due to his lack of practice laps and experience heading into the race. Having been due to start at the back, VeeKay would gain numerous positions early on in the race after Takuma Sato was unable to start due to his qualifying crash, whilst Graham Rahal, Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay would all fall several laps down straight away after experiencing technical issues prior to the formation laps.
Rinus continued to circulate decently through the first stint of the race. Shortly after he and the rest of the field had pitted for the first time, however, disaster would strike. On lap thirty-seven, VeeKay would stray wide in turns one and two and would find himself on the ultra-slippery, low-grip high-line. He would understeer into the wall on the exit of turn two, with the contact sending him suddenly spinning back down the track.
VeeKay’s sudden spin would catch Alex Palou totally by surprise. The Spanish driver was unable to take evasive action to avoid the Dutchman, with both then being sent into the inside wall. Both cars would have to be retired from the race; thus ending both drivers’ IndyCar debuts in one go.
After the race, VeeKay would apologise to his team for crashing twice on the same day, saying that he had expected his first race in the NTT IndyCar Series “to be a lot different.”
“I got a little too high around Santino [Ferrucci],” Palou said on Saturday. “lost the rear in the marbles and made contact with Alex [Palou]. It’s very, very unfortunate. I expected my debut to be a lot different. I’m so sorry to the team. We’ll get better from here. I had very limited time, a lot of learning, but unfortunately, I crashed twice. I will have to sleep and think about it for a month. But our Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy was good.”
Palou would also take the incident as a learning experience, but he also stated that there was not much he could have done to avoid the incident without the benefit of hindsight.
“I don’t think there was much I could have done,” Palou said. “In hindsight, I should have gone high instead of going low, but that’s easy to say now. I have to watch the replay. Maybe I could have done something different, but not with the oval experience I have right now.”
VeeKay’s team-mate for the race would be his team boss, Ed Carpenter. After finishing the race in fifth-place, Carpenter would comment on VeeKay’s debut. Ed would not exactly mince his words, basically saying that the rookie had not listened to his advice, but he would go on to say that the young Dutchman would learn given time.
“Everything I told Rinus to do, he didn’t really do, which was being patient, be careful,” said Carpenter. “Best thing I told him before the race was to stay out of the marbles. We’ve got a little work to do there on the sponginess of him, but he can drive the car. He was going forward, with virtually no practice and having never run an oval IndyCar race.
“He’s going to get there, but it’s going to be challenging. We still love him.”
VeeKay will be hoping for more luck when the series returns for the second round of 2020 in just under a month’s time. The GMR Grand Prix will take place on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway‘s Grand Prix circuit on Saturday, July 4.