|Six Months After Season Finale, Conor Daly and Rinus VeeKay Return for the 2021 Edition of the Firestone Grand Prix|
(INDIANAPOLIS) April 21, 2021 – Preview Notes
- The 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season is off and running as Ed Carpenter Racing returns to the downtown streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. this weekend. Drivers Conor Daly and Rinus VeeKay are ready for another chance to take on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course only six months after their last visit. The 2021 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is the second in a string of three back-to-back race weekends on three different kinds of tracks.
- The season started last Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park. Less than one lap into VeeKay’s second year as an NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver, he found himself sideways on track after avoiding a multi-car collision. His only damage was a flat left front tire, but emergency service in a closed pit dropped him to the back of the field. Smart strategy and a strong run launched him up to the 6th position by the checkered flag. Daly was strong in each session prior to the race, including advancing to the second round of qualifying and starting 10th. While Daly avoided the opening lap melee, he had to deviate from his planned strategy. He persevered through a tough second half of the race, gaining positions as he could and ultimately finishing 16th.
- Exactly six months prior to this year’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Daly and VeeKay participated in the 2020 edition. During the late October season finale, both ECR drivers battled adversity. VeeKay had nowhere to go when another car spun in front of him, but was able to continue following repairs and finished 15th. Under a caution, Daly came around a corner to find the entire field stacked up in front 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 and finished 17th.
- Though the on-track result last year was not what VeeKay had hoped for to close out his debut year, the day of the season finale marked an important day in the 20-year-old’s career. In the morning, it was announced that he would return to ECR for a second season, continuing as the team’s full-time driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet. By merely taking the green flag in the afternoon, he was awarded the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Rookie of the Year title.
- Beginning as a one-off 2018 Indianapolis 500 entry, Daly and the U.S. Air Force have grown to be synonymous in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The design of Daly’s 2021 road and street course car celebrates the U.S. Air Force’s B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. A dramatic leap forward in technology, the bomber represents a major milestone in the U.S. bomber modernization program. Its low-observable, or “stealth,” characteristics give it the unique ability to penetrate an enemy’s most sophisticated defenses and threaten its most valued and heavily defended targets. Yesterday, Daly’s No. 47 U.S. Air Force car for the Indianapolis 500 was unveiled. The one-off scheme pays homage to the Tuskegee Airmen and is modeled off of their P-51 Mustangs used during World War II.
- Car care superstore Autogeek.com will be featured on VeeKay’s No. 21 in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. This year will be the fourth year in a row that the Florida-based company has been featured on the No. 21 during their home race. Over the last 15 years, Autogeek has risen to become one of the most reputable and trusted sources for automotive detailing products and accessories. Through detailing how-to guides and instructional videos, Autogeek provides a wealth of car care know-how for detailers, hobbyists and car care enthusiasts.
- The first practice session will take place Friday afternoon at 4:15 p.m. ET, followed by another on Saturday morning at 9:45 a.m. ET. 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: “I have always loved St. Pete, it is such a great event! I was able to win in Indy Pro 2000 back in 2010, which was my first time racing on the INDYCAR stage. I led laps there in 2016 as an NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie as well, so this race has always meant a lot to me. Love the track, love the city, love the event. We learned a lot last weekend and are ready to put on a show in the U.S. Air Force machine!”
RINUS VEEKAY, No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet: “I am super excited for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg! Last weekend was very awesome, it was a crazy race but to finish 6th in the first race of the season is definitely not a bad start. I am aiming to keep this up and get some hardware, the team deserves it! I am already in St. Pete and the track looks awesome. I can’t wait to get going!”