INDIANAPOLIS — Rinus VeeKay’s starting record at the Indianapolis 500 is quite impressive.
In 2020, VeeKay became the fastest teenager in Indianapolis 500 history when he started on the inside of row two when he was a 19-year-old rookie with Ed Carpenter Racing.
In 2021, VeeKay started outside the front row.
This past weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, VeeKay took the provisional pole in Saturday’s first round of qualifications with the third fastest four-lap qualification attempt in history. It was the fastest four-lap average since 1996.
On Sunday, VeeKay easily transferred from the Fast 12 into the Fast Six. He posted the third-fastest qualification attempt with a four-lap average of 233.385 mph. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon claimed his fifth career Indy 500 pole with an Indianapolis 500 record speed for the pole winner with a four-lap average of 234.056 mph.
It’s the fastest pole-winning speed in Indianapolis 500 history, breaking the record of 233.718 mph set by Scott Brayton in 1996.
Arie Luyendyk set the all-time four-lap qualifying average speed record of 236.986 mph in 1996, but his run came on the second day of qualifications and wasn’t eligible for the pole.
Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing was the second fastest with a four-lap average of 233.499 mph.
Both Dixon and Palou are in Hondas. VeeKay was the fastest Chevrolet, just a tick faster than his owner/driver teammate Ed Carpenter, who qualified fourth with a four-lap average of 233.080 mph.
Not bad for a 21-year-old.
“I was actually very happy with the run,” VeeKay told SPEED SPORT. “My Fast 12 run was super on the limit. I was happy to keep it flat on the track. I was happy with the car, as happy as we were all qualifying weekend in the Fast Six.
“Scott was just on a different level. With a five-car team like Ganassi, all of their cars got quicker and quicker so you can see they have a little bit more data. I was lucky to have Ed Carpenter with me in the Fast Six and we are both happy.
“I’m pretty happy with the result.”
VeeKay believes Dixon was able to run a more consistent four-lap time while VeeKay’s had a bit of a drop-off from laps one to two.
“Scott’s effort was amazing,” VeeKay said. “The first lap was fast, but it was the consistency that came afterward that was so strong. A great job for him.
“We are proud to be the best Chevy on the grid for the Indianapolis 500, third time in a row. It’s a great job for Ed Carpenter Racing and Team Chevy.
“We can definitely fight from third. I know what it is like to start third in the Indianapolis 500. I have picked up a lot of experience since the last time I started third here last year.”
As the fastest driver on Saturday, VeeKay became a target for the other 11 drivers that advanced into Sunday’s round.
“Well, I was actually pretty nervous for Sunday,” he admitted. “I knew … many people counted on me to go for the pole position, so we were very fast yesterday. Of course, a bit lucky with the draw and driving in cold conditions, but, yeah, having to go two times today was not ideal.
“The first run just, like Scott’s, was very much on the limit. I could stay flat, but Turn 4 was very close to disaster, but stayed flat,” VeeKay said. “Then we changed the car. Took some downforce out for the Fast Six and really matched the balance of how I liked it. I was more comfortable in my Fast 6 run than my Fast 12 run.”
VeeKay is confident that he can win the race. Although he has qualified spectacularly for this first three Indy 500s, he finished 20th as a rookie and eighth last year.
“We have a super-strong race car and are one of the best in traffic,” said the driver from The Netherlands. “I’m very confident. We have a super-strong race car and are one of the best in traffic. I got a lot of experience last year, especially at Texas.
“Running at the front teaches you a lot. I’m very happy with that and can battle from the front.
“You have to be lucky, but hopefully luck is with us.”
Should VeeKay win Sunday’s 106th Indianapolis 500, he would break a 70-year-old record as the youngest winner of the race. Troy Ruttman was 22 when he won the Indianapolis 500 in 1952.
“That would mean a lot to be, actually,” VeeKay said. “Before qualifying, his daughter came to me and said she was rooting for me if someone was going to take that record away, she’s hoping it’s me.
“That was a nice little thing to take away.”