The 19-year-old, who finished runner-up in Indy Lights last year, is one of three full-time rookies in the IndyCar field and is expected to not only be a strong contender for Rookie of the Year honors but also help elevate Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet’s results on road and street courses.
And in his home country of The Netherlands, interest in IndyCar racing has spiked.
“Many Dutch people, race fans – because the whole country is one big race country! – are very excited to get some racing started. They're very happy that the IndyCar is starting Saturday.
“I'm getting called all day by Dutch TV stations and the biggest Dutch websites, just to promote the IndyCar start on Saturday. I'm very happy with that. I think also with qualifying being streamed in The Netherlands now, it's a big opportunity for IndyCar and also myself.”
Although VeeKay, like fellow rookies Oliver Askew and Alex Palou, and also Patricio O’Ward, only has a single test day of experience at Texas Motor Speedway on which to draw, he says that test went well for Ed Carpenter Racing.
“I had the oval test after the COTA test beginning of this season [mid-February],” he recalled. “It was amazing actually with the IndyCar. Everything feels so perfect! The speed, the G-force, everything is very insane.
“It was a great test. We made good progress with the car also. I was very, very pleased with that.
“Yeah, I think coming to this weekend with limited time in running and everything, I think it's very, very helpful to have Ed as my teammate. I think I'll be asking him a lot of questions in the weekend.
“Of course, my experience with Ed and Ed Carpenter Racing is very, very small because this will be my first IndyCar start with them. [But] what I've already experienced, they are very, very professional. Always, whenever we show up to a track for the test, the baseline setup is always right there.
“I think we will not have much trouble with getting up to speed. I think having Ed as a teammate and team boss is very unique. I think it will also be good for the team atmosphere this weekend.”
VeeKay scored his first oval win during his championship-winning Pro Mazda (now Indy Pro 2000) season at Gateway Motorsports Park, while in Indy Lights he finished third at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and second at Gateway. Asked what advice he would give his protégé, Carpenter – an oval specialist and IndyCar’s only owner/driver – said he hopes VeeKay will play himself in carefully so that he’s fully up to speed by the time of the Indy 500 (currently set for August).
“I think one of the big things [about Texas Motor Speedway this weekend] is that it's going to be different from his rookie test,” he said. “It was like 40-some degrees and sunny with 70 degree-ish track temps. When we go back it's going to be high 90s, track temps well over 100 degrees.
“We can take some experience from that test [but] it's also going to be vastly different and feel so much so like a different racetrack just because of the conditions.
“One of the things we've always loved about Rinus is how quick he is, how quick he is to get up to speed, how he challenges the car and attacks a racetrack.
“I don't want him to lose that mentality, but also it's important to use this race and the challenge of a shortened event to gain as much experience as he can and get through the whole event cleanly and learn as much as he can to take into the next oval at Iowa, working himself into a comfort level with ovals, so by the time we get to Indianapolis in August that we can turn him fully loose.