|VeeKay Finishes 9th in Streets of St. Petersburg; Conor Daly Battles the Heat to Finish 16th|
|(ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.) April 25, 2021 – Race Notes|
- After finishing 6th last week on a road course, Rinus VeeKay added a Top 10 today on a street course. VeeKay finished 9th in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, exactly six months after his first start on the 1.8-mile circuit. Conor Daly fought through extreme heat in the second half of the 100-lap race and recorded a 16th place finish.
- In yesterday’s qualifying, Daly struggled to get pace out of the red tires and finished 10th in his group. It would ultimately translate to the 19th position on today’s starting grid. In contrast, VeeKay securely transferred to the second round. He was on pace to make the Firestone Fast 6 but fell just short, qualifying 7th. In this morning’s warmup session, VeeKay turned the 5th fastest lap of all drivers.
- VeeKay took the green flag on a set of sticker red Firestone Firehawks and immediately moved up a position to 6th. The first full course caution occurred on Lap 18, but VeeKay stuck to his strategy and did not pit. He stretched his first set of red Firehawks to Lap 29 when he brought the No. 21 Autogeek Chevrolet in to the pits for a set of sticker blacks.
- Daly also elected to start the race on the red Firestone Firehawks. He went to an alternate strategy early, making his first stop on Lap 11. The No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet crew gave Daly a fresh set of sticker reds and topped him off on fuel. He was able to make up significant ground and turn quick lap times. After exiting the pits in 23rd, he was 16th by the first full course caution.
- VeeKay’s green flag stop dropped him to 20th, but he was back up to 8th by the midway point of the race. He stayed out until Lap 62, when he made his second and final pit stop from 9th. Will Power was able to pass VeeKay following a Lap 83 restart, but VeeKay made up the position on Lap 89 when he made it around Sebastien Bourdais. VeeKay’s fastest lap of the race was his next one, setting him up for a solid final 10 laps. At the checkered flag, VeeKay earned his second Top 10 finish in as many races.
- Daly ran as high as 8th before his second pit stop. Anticipating a full-course caution, he dove into the pit lane on Lap 37. The yellow flag did not fly and Daly cycled back down to 19th. Daly began to struggle with the intense heat in the cockpit just before his last scheduled pit stop on Lap 69. He stopped two more times in the closing laps, topping off on fuel and putting on different tires. Even with the brutal conditions, Daly gained three positions before the final lap and finished in the 16th position.
- Next weekend, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES moves to the high-speed oval of Texas Motor Speedway. Drivers will be challenged with a doubleheader event, running a full-length, points-paying race on Saturday and another on Sunday. ECR team owner Ed Carpenter will join VeeKay on track as Carpenter steps back into the No. 20 Chevrolet for his first races of the year. The Genesys 300 will take place Saturday, May 1 at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the XPEL 375 on Sunday, May 2 at 5 p.m. ET. Both will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network.
CONOR DALY, No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet, Finished 16th: “Today we tried some different strategy, which was working for us – until it wasn’t! Not really sure why the yellows were called as late as they were after some incidents, it seemed a bit odd. We had really good pace early on while on the red tires, which was really encouraging. A lot of good things happened, but there was also some tough things at the end. Physically, it was very, very draining. Today was the hottest I’ve ever been in a car and I was just trying to make it to the end. Hopefully, we learned so really good things for the Indy GP here in a couple weeks!”
RINUS VEEKAY, No. 21 Autogeek Chevrolet, Finished 9th: “Pretty tough day in the office! But, Top 10 – P9 is a pretty good result! I had a hard lock up on the red tires which wasn’t ideal, but I learned so much and got the points! Not the easiest day, but not much to complain about. It was very tough physically but we survived and I am so ready for Texas this coming weekend!”