Rinus VeeKay and Conor Daly Battle Adversity in St. Pete; Fight Forward to Finish Firestone Grand Prix
(ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.) October 25, 2020 – Race Notes
When the checkered flag flew after 100 laps through the downtown streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., so too ended the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season. Ed Carpenter Racing drivers Rinus VeeKay and Conor Daly both sustained contact to their Chevrolet-powered Indy cars today, but were able to soldier on following repairs and finish the event. VeeKay closed out his rookie campaign with a 15th place finish while Daly’s first season with ECR ended with 17th place.
VeeKay qualified 9th for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, advancing to the second round of qualifications in his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES street course race. A call to pit early vaulted him up to the 5th position, but it was a strategy which depended on the race staying green. VeeKay was caught out by two cautions in a row and was mired mid-pack after his second stop. When Scott McLauglin spun to the inside of the track in Turn 1, VeeKay had nowhere to go and damaged his front wing as he made contact with the spinning car. However, he was able to continue in the No. 21 SONAX/Autogeek Chevrolet after repairs. As multiple cars dropped out in the closing laps and the remainder of VeeKay’s race was clean, he gained several positions and would finish 15th.
Daly started 14th today, narrowly missing out on advancing to the second round of qualifications himself. He also elected to utilize a three-stop strategy which needed green-flag conditions. He was caught out by the same yellow as VeeKay and had to pit ahead of schedule. During the second caution, he came around a corner to find the entire field slowed ahead of him. On cold tires, the No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet slid and made contact. A new front wing and suspension pieces were required, but Daly was also able to continue on without further issue. He finished 17th in the Firestone Grand Prix, also collecting a handful of positions as other competitors had issues.
Despite today’s frustrations, VeeKay was awarded the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Rookie of the Year title by merely taking the green flag this afternoon. Earlier this morning, it was announced that the 20-year-old will remain with Ed Carpenter Racing next season. The 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season will open in the same location the 2020 season closed, also with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The 2021 edition will take place on March 7, 2021.
CONOR DALY, No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet, Finished 17th: “I am definitely guilty of making a big mistake under yellow. Rinus came out of the pits quite quick right in front of us and everyone just stopped all of a sudden around the next corner. When the tires were cold, they were like ice. As soon as they locked up, I had nowhere to go. The U.S. Air Force Chevrolet was really fast, which was good. We made some great progress on the race set up. Even after the contact, the car was still fast so that was really encouraging.”
RINUS VEEKAY, No. 21 SONAX/Autogeek Chevrolet, Finished 15tha: “I am officially Rookie of the Year! I am very happy with that. Everything we didn’t want to have happen in the race happened, though. We were super quick, but the first yellow kind of screwed us. I was in the pack after that. Scott McLaughlin spun to the inside and I was there, I couldn’t go anywhere. After that, it was just about bringing the car home without and damage and getting the points. I think another podium was a possibility, we had such a fast car! We have to wait a few months until we come back, but we’ll give it another shot! I am looking forward to being back – not as a rookie!”