Rinus VeeKay, driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, is coming off a remarkable first season. The Dutch driver captured the 2020 INDYCAR SERIES Rookie of the Year – the first for a Chevrolet driver in nearly 30 years.
Along the way, he claimed his first IndyCar pole position at October’s Harvest Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, finished third in that weekend’s first race and recorded two more top-five finishes in 14 races with Ed Carpenter Racing.
VeeKay – full name Rinus van Kalmthout – talks below about winning Rookie of the Year, working with Chevrolet and the benefits of using the Chevrolet Simulator during an unpredictable 2020 season
YOU’RE THE NTT INDYCAR SERIES ROOKIE OF THE YEAR NOW, ALONGSIDE ARIE LUYENDYK, NIGEL MANSELL, ALEX ZANARDI, TK (TONY KANAAN), (SCOTT) DIXON, (SEBASTIEN) BOURDAIS, AND (ALEXANDER) ROSSI… HAS IT HIT HOME THAT YOU’RE NOW ON THAT LIST OF THOSE GUYS?
“Well, it’s pretty cool that I’m on that list now, and it seems that most of the Rookies of the Year go on to be successful in IndyCar. I’m very happy to be on the list and especially with a Chevy, which hasn’t happened in many years. So I’m very happy with that, and I cannot wait to not be a rookie next year and fight with those guys again.”
THE LAST ONE FOR CHEVY WAS 1992.
“I was minus-eight back then, so that’s pretty crazy. I had to do a video for TK, everyone had to do that and I’m like, ‘Well, I actually didn’t really know him back then.’ I met him of course, but we were not personal or friends or anything. And then I’m just like, ‘Well, Tony you’re in IndyCar since I was like, minus-two or minus-three!’”
LIMITED LAPS, NO TESTING, LIMITED PRACTICE THIS YEAR… HOW MUCH HAS HAVING THE CHEVROLET SIMULATOR AND ANY OTHER TOOL THAT CHEVY GIVES YOU HELPED YOU AT LEAST GO INTO THE WEEKEND FEELING LIKE YOU’RE SOMEWHAT PREPARED?
“The Chevy team really helps me. Of course, we spent a lot of time in the simulator on setup work, not only driving. We tried setups In the sim, and we bring them over to the race track. And it works exactly the same as in the simulator. So it’s verifiable, you can try a lot, there’s no there’s no damage or anything. So you can try everything in every way. So it’s a big advantage.”
WERE YOU SURPRISED THAT IT TRANSFERRED SO WELL TO WHEN YOU LOAD IT ON THE CAR AT THE TRACK?
“Yes. I’m was very surprised of course. I’ve driven different simulators before, but the setups were never really the same. But then the one from Chevy, it just translated the same way from the simulator to the racetrack. So very surprising, very good.”
DO YOU THINK YOU WERE MORE PREPARED THAN THE OTHER ROOKIES THIS YEAR? IS THAT MAYBE WHY YOU WON THE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR, PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY?
“Well, you never know for sure, but I think it’s definitely played a role, with the new Aeroscreen, which is very, very warm. If some guys get fatigued, and I can stay sharp then of course there is an advantage.”
WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE WORKING WITH A MANUFACTURER LIKE CHEVROLET, WHERE IN ROAD TO INDY YOU’RE JUST WITH YOUR TEAM, NOW YOU’VE GOT YOUR TEAM AND YOU’VE GOT A MANUFACTURER TO HELP YOU OUT. IS THAT HARD TO GET USED TO?
“It’s actually really nice to have Chevy with us and they really support you. When I made the Fast Nine qualifying in Indianapolis, all the Chevy engineers were there to just cheer on the other Chevy car. So it’s not like there is a rivalry. It’s just working for the brand of Chevy and making sure the brand is doing as well as possible.”
IS THAT SOMETHING THAT YOU’VE ENJOYED HAVING? NOW YOU’VE GOT YOUR TEAM, YOURSELF, AND A MANUFACTURER IS THAT ADDED PRESSURE?
“It doesn’t really add pressure. It’s just very nice to have different kinds of data, an extra engineer who is from Chevy and just a lot more preparation before the race.”