RINUS VEEKAY ADVANCES TO ROUND 2 OF QUALIFYING IN RETURN TO INDYCAR COMPETITION
VeeKay Will Start 11th in First Race Back Following Surgery; Conor Daly Qualifies on the Outside of Row 12
(LEXINGTON, Ohio) July 3, 2021 – Qualifying Notes
Rinus VeeKay is back in business after being forced to sit out the last round of NTT INDYCAR SERIES competition. VeeKay was not able to compete in at Road America as he was recovering from surgery on a fractured clavicle. He stepped back in to the No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet yesterday; today, he made it to the second round of qualifying. He advanced to Round 2 and will start 11th in the Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Conor Daly will have the honor of representing the U.S. Air Force on the 4th of July and will start from the outside of Row 12.
Practice at Mid-Ohio began Friday afternoon with a 45-minute session, followed by another 45-minute session this morning. It was VeeKay’s first time back in the car following surgery two weeks ago to repair a fractured left clavicle sustained in a cycling accident. He turned 44 laps across both practices with a quick lap this morning of 121.704 mph. Daly made 39 circuits, also turning his best lap this morning at 120.629 mph.
Groups are determined by the finishing order of the practice session immediately preceding qualifying. With odd-numbered positions at the conclusion of Practice 2, Daly and VeeKay were assigned to Round 1, Group 2. Both began the 10-minute session on Firestone’s primary black Firehawks before switching to a set of alternate red tires. Daly’s last lap was not only his fastest lap of qualifying but also his fastest lap of the weekend, coming in at 121.198 mph. However, it would only have him 12th in the group. As only the fastest six cars advance, Daly will start 24th tomorrow.
Meanwhile in Group 2, VeeKay made his switch to red tires and shot up the charts. He held on to the 6th position at the checkered flag, advancing him to Round 2 and ensuring he would start no worse than 12th. VeeKay had built an excellent gap with plenty of clear track for the second round, but another competitor had to serve a drive-through penalty and re-entered the circuit in front of VeeKay. He was forced to lift, costing him one of his fastest laps at speed. Still, he managed to finish the session with a lap of 121.749 mph and will line up 11th on the starting grid.
Daly will have the distinct privilege of representing the U.S. Air Force as he races at Mid-Ohio on the 4th of July. Daly’s 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. The No. 20 features a painted pattern of silver, blue and black silhouettes of the only stealth bomber in the world.
VeeKay is in the midst of a breakout sophomore season. The 20-year-old earned six Top 10 finishes in seven races, including his first career victory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in mid-May. One week later, he became the youngest front row starter in Indianapolis 500 history as he qualified 3rd. In his most recent event weekend, the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, VeeKay returned to the podium with a second-place finish in Race 1. Despite not being able to compete in the Road America event, VeeKay remains sixth in the overall championship standings.
Final practice for the Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course will take place this afternoon. Daly and VeeKay will have a half an hour to perfect their Chevrolet-powered NTT INDYCAR SERIES cars as the session will run from 3:30 – 4 p.m. ET. Tomorrow’s 80-lap race will be broadcast on NBC with coverage beginning at 12 p.m. ET.
CONOR DALY, No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet, Qualified 24th: “As usual in IndyCar qualifying, you’re just fighting for the smallest things. We needed three-tenths to make it to the second round of qualifying and three-tenths of a second is a very, very small amount. We just missed it. However, that was the best balance we’ve had all weekend. That was a positive, but we just haven’t been able to get the speed out of the tres yet. We’ll keep working on it and make some magic happen for the U.S. Air Force on the 4th of July!”
RINUS VEEKAY, No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet, Qualified 11th: “Today was a lot better than yesterday! The SONAX car felt very good, but I did get held up in qualifying. That wasn’t great, but we know we have a strong car and we can really attack. This afternoon, we can see how the car is in race trim. I am very excited, I love this track!”