VeeKay hopeful for Barber race: “I think we’re going to be really quick this weekend”

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Photo credit: Chris Owens | Penske Entertainment

Rinus VeeKay is having a bit of a difficult start to his 2023 IndyCar season, with two DNF’s and an underwhelming result in Texas, despite winning the Jostens Biggest Mover of the Race award. In fact, for his latest top-10 finish, we need to go back to the second Indy road course race last year, where he finished sixth.

“Well, we’re definitely not happy. It’s been so far disastrous in results. Definitely not where we want to be,” he said in a media session with Pit Debrief and other media outlets.

“We know we have pace. Long Beach wasn’t where we wanted to be. Texas, there’s still room to improve. I think we really had the pace to race there in Texas.

“In St. Petersburg, we were third, sixth in practice, something goes wrong in qualifying. At the end of the race we were fighting for sixth place again.

“I think we have all the cards on the table to do better, to get back to last year’s results. We just have been a bit unlucky. I think Barber, Indy road course, Indy 500 are those places where I can climb back up and get back to where we belong.”

Last year the Dutch youngster, who is making his 50th IndyCar start in Alabama, grabbed pole and finished a respectable third on the twisty road course. And that gives perspective for the coming race, although it won’t come easy, he reckons.

“Well, I like the track layout. I like fast, flowy corners. But you need to have a car that does well. You can drive 100% and nail every corner and be 10th with the car. That’s not good.

“As a team, we have to nail the driving because the talent in the INDYCAR SERIES is so high. Also compared to all these other teams, everyone is working day and night to be the fastest. You’ve got to make the good decisions and get it right.

“I think we’re going to be really quick this weekend. I’ve liked Barber since the beginning. We’ve been fast there with our car all the time. I expect we’re going to have a good race. Hopefully, again, make it through to the Fast Six, hopefully pole, pick up where we left last year in Barber.”

His great qualifying performance a year ago paints a stark contrast with his Saturday results in the current season. And although he’s had some bad luck, he does recognise the qualifying pace needs some improvement.

“I think our one-lap pace is pretty good. It’s more we don’t put ourselves in a position where we can show that. In St. Petersburg, we of course got traffic in the qualifying lap, so I got screwed there. We had great race pace. We had to get back from the back to the front.

“Then in Texas, we just went the wrong way in qualifying. We qualified in the back. Well, Long Beach was just a tough weekend. Our one-lap pace is pretty good. We have been making it up all the time in the race.

“Definitely one-lap pace could be better.”

Ed Carpenter Racing always performs strong on the more grippy road courses, so with two street circuits and a difficult oval in the rear view mirror, there will be some good opportunities to break the downward spiral in the coming month. But the Dutchman also feels this is the make-or-break part of the season, when asked whether the coming three races are crucial.

“I think so. Also the morale of the team. I think it’s important we get good results. If we get there, fight for the win, we make it happen, at least we got to be at the front of the field now.

“Yeah, it’s going to be tough. Everyone is very fast. I think there’s more fast cars than last year at the track in the INDYCAR SERIES. You give it all, I think we can really change our season with these few weekends.”