VeeKay Scores Runner-Up Finish in Race 1 of Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix; Conor Daly Climbs to 13th
DETROIT (June 12, 2021) – Race 1 Notes
Rinus VeeKay’s first career race in the streets of Belle Isle ended with a podium finish as he took the checkered flag in the second position. It was VeeKay’s first career race in any series as he had never driven on the track in any series until yesterday. Conor Daly returned to one of his favorite tracks for the first time in several years, earning a 13th place finish today in Race 1 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.
Teams arrived at the island park in the Detroit River yesterday for the first and only practice session of the weekend. Daly took to the 2.35-mile, 13-turn temporary street circuit for the first time since 2017 while VeeKay turned his first laps. Although VeeKay was not able to get in a clean lap on the red tires, he was still the 9th-fastest driver at the end of the 75-minute practice. Daly made the most of the session, working through a comprehensive checklist. He also did not get a clean lap in on reds and was 17th at the end of the day.
The usual three rounds of knockout qualifying were condensed to two with the fastest six cars from each group advancing. Daly and VeeKay were both assigned to Group 1. Daly’s quick lap was over a second and half quicker than his best lap in practice, although it would have him 17th on the starting grid. VeeKay was 3rd at the end of the 10-minute session, which transferred him to Segment 2. However, his flying lap was interrupted as he came up on a slower-moving car. He finished 12th in Segment 2 which would be starting position for this afternoon’s 70-lap race.
VeeKay was the very first car to pit in the race, bring the No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet in for a switch from red Firestone tires to blacks after he competed the two required laps. Like his teammate, Daly came into the pit lane as soon as possible for a set of black Firestone Firehawks as well. As the rest of the field made their first stops, both cycled forward. Their second stop on Lap 21 and 23, respectively, beat the first yellow flag on Lap 24 later. Yellow flag conditions turned to red on Lap 27 and a lengthy delay ensued for track repairs.
Drivers eventually returned to their cars and the race was restarted on Lap 31. The cars who had not yet stopped had to come in when the pits opened, which moved Daly up to 9th and VeeKay to 5th. Daly began to quickly struggle with grip and slid back to 19th. He was able to manage his tires until his third and final stop, which came on Lap 46. Focusing forward, he made up multiple positions in the closing laps and was able to finish 13th.
VeeKay immediately made up a position on the Lap 31 restart, moving up to 4th. On Lap 35, he made another pass to get to 3rd. After his final pit stop, he cycled back into 3rd. Lap 64 would see him become trapped behind a lapped car, creating an opportunity for Takuma Sato to pass VeeKay. The race was red flagged again on Lap 65. When engines were re-fired, race leader Will Power’s car would not start. VeeKay moved back up to third, behind eventual winner Marcus Ericsson and Sato. On Lap 67, the race restarted for the final time and VeeKay took the second position from Sato. VeeKay held off a hard-charging Pato O’Ward in the final laps and secured the second spot on the podium.
VeeKay was the highest finishing Chevrolet-powered driver in Race 1 and has moved up to 4th in the championship standings. Today’s result was his sixth Top 10 finish in seven races and his second podium of the year. VeeKay earned his first career victory just one month ago, winning the GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road course.
The 20-year-old was the highest finishing Chevrolet-powered driver in Race 1 and has moved up to 4th in the championship standings. Today’s result was his sixth Top 10 finish in seven races and his second podium of the year. VeeKay earned his first career victory just one month ago, winning the GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road course.
The action begins again tomorrow with Race 2 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix. It will be an entirely new event with qualifying taking place at 9 a.m. ET. The format will mirror today’s and will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network. Pre-race coverage of Race 2 will begin at 12 p.m. ET with the green flag scheduled for 12:50 p.m. ET.
CONOR DALY, No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet, Finished 13th: “The U.S. Air Force Chevy had really strong pace, which was great, and we had a great strategy call. After the first red flag, I am not really sure what happened with our left rear but it just felt like we were losing so much speed and grip. We lost a lot of the positions that we gained, which was a shame, but once we got another set of tires on, we were really, really strong. I feel good for tomorrow because the car was quite quick in race trim! We were always going forward, other than when we had our left rear issue. I am looking forward to having another shot at it tomorrow.”
RINUS VEEKAY, No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet, Finished 2nd: “P2! Second podium this year. Very happy, first time at Detroit – crazy track! I made some cool moves and got an awesome result. Awesome car, awesome engine – thank you to the team at Ed Carpenter Racing and Chevy! We get another race tomorrow, hopefully I can climb a lion in the fountain – that would be cool!”