The youth movement in the NTT IndyCar Series is real, and there was more proof of that on display today on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Rinus VeeKay led 33 laps on Saturday, including the last one, to earn his first career victory in the GMR Grand Prix. It was the first victory for Ed Carpenter Racing since Josef Newgarden won the 2016 race at Iowa Speedway.
VeeKay cruised to the finish line ahead of pole-sitter Romain Grosjean, who earned his first career podium finish in just his third IndyCar start. The former Formula One driver led a race-high 44 laps on Saturday. Joining them on the podium was Alex Palou, who once again led the way for Chip Ganassi Racing. Palou won the season-opening race at Barber Motorsports Park.
GMR Grand Prix Box Score
Josef Newgarden and Graham Rahal rounded out the top five on Saturday. It was another impressive drive from Rahal, after starting 11th and suffering damage in the first turn on the opening lap of the race. In the last nine races on the IMS road course, Rahal has gained an astounding 70 positions.
Simon Pagenaud has won this race three times but was not able to battle for the lead today after his error on the first lap. Alexander Rossi rebounded after a disappointing qualifying session on Friday and finished 7th after starting in 14th position. Scott McLaughlin had another solid outing and recorded another top-ten finish. Ganassi teammates Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson rounded out the top ten on Saturday. Dixon now leads Palou by 13 points in the championship standings.
Two drivers suffered heartbreak on Saturday, at opposite ends of the race. Jack Harvey scored his first podium on this road course and has always been fast on this twisty circuit. After qualifying 3rd on Friday, expectations were high for him and the Meyer Shank Racing team. After racing up front for most of the race, Harvey had a hiccup on what was supposed to be his final pit stop. The end result was a cut tire, which removed him from an almost certain podium result.
The other driver that had a forgettable day was Conor Daly. His race was ruined before he even got to the second turn after Pagenaud slid into him on the opening lap, sending him into the grass. Mechanical issues plagued his return, but he was finally able to get back on track, 35 laps behind the leader. The team got the bookend special, finishing first and last with their two Chevrolet machines.
It was an uneventful afternoon for Will Power, who has also had his fair share of success on this road course. Ryan Hunter-Reay was able to avoid the cartoon anvil this weekend and improved seven positions and finished 12th. His Andretti Autosport teammate Colton Herta finished just behind him, in what was another lackluster race for the team. Look for their fortunes to turn around as the focus shifts to the 2.5-mile oval.
VeeKay became the sixth-youngest winner in series history, and is the first driver to record a victory in all four levels of the series; winning in USF2000, Indy Pro 2000, Indy Lights, and now IndyCar. “We had an awesome start to the weekend. I knew we had the car; we were so fast. I’m so happy for the team, so thankful. I couldn’t have done it without them. “A perfect day. It’s amazing, and thank you to all the fans coming out. Getting my first podium here last year and now winning, it’s a dream.”
It is a tremendous momentum boost for VeeKay and the ECR team as they turn their attention to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Ironically, it was VeeKay that suffered a broken finger during a crash just four laps into testing on the IMS oval back in April. Today, he celebrated in victory circle.
Five races into the season, the series has seen three drivers earn their first career victory. There has also been a different winner in all five races this year. One team that has yet to stand on the top step of the podium is Team Penske. That is especially odd, as all of Chevrolet’s wins since 2017 have come from Penske. This is the first time they have gone five races into a season without winning since the 2013 season.
The best news is that the next race on the IndyCar schedule is the Indianapolis 500 on May 30. Opening Day of practice begins on May 18 where cars will run from 10 AM to 6 PM. Practice for the rest of the week (Wednesday-Friday) will run from Noon until 6 PM each day. Qualifying begins on Saturday with the Fast Nine Shootout on Sunday to determine the pole-sitter for the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500.