IndyCar newsflash: VeeKay wins Indy GP, Dixon on pole for Indy 500

IndyCar newsflash: VeeKay wins Indy GP, Dixon on pole for Indy 500
Chris Owens

Rinus VeeKay celebrated first ever win at Indy GP – Title fight gains momentum – Jimmie Johnson and Juan Pablo Montoya struggle to impress – Scott Dixon won pole for Indy 500

Rinus VeeKay (Ed Carpenter Racing) was the man of the hour at the Indy GP in Indianapolis. With his first career victory, the Dutchman has not only immortalised himself in the history books of the IndyCar Series. He is also the fifth winner in the fifth race of the current season. After Alex Palou (Chip Ganassi Racing) and Pato O’Ward (McLaren SP), 20-year-old VeeKay is the third driver this season to race into Victory Lane for the first time. 

Meanwhile, the second big tale of the Indy GP was written by Romain Grosjean (Dale Coyne Racing). The IndyCar rookie – just six months after his terrible, fiery crash in Formula 1 – took a shocking pole position ahead of Josef Newgarden (Team Penske) and the equally strong Jack Harvey (Meyer Shank Racing). 

Grosjean may not have converted the pole into a victory. But the Frenchman was still overjoyed with second place and his first podium in only his third IndyCar race (Grosjean sat out both oval races in Texas as planned).

Third place went to the on-form Spaniard Palou ahead of Newgarden and Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing). Harvey, on the other hand, only finished the race in 23rd place after a strong start. The decisive factor was a completely botched pit stop and a subsequent puncture, which forced the Briton into the pits again.

Grosjean, VeeKay and Palou on the Indy GP podium – Credit: Chris Owens

Championship contenders stumble at Indy GP

As fabulous as the race and results were for VeeKay, Grosjean and Rahal, the Indy GP ended on a sobering note for some of the championship contenders. Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing), the leader in the overall standings, drove up to ninth place at the finish after a disappointing 16th place on the grid. O’Ward never really got into his stride the whole weekend and only finished fifteenth.

Ahead of the legendary Indy 500 on May 30th, Dixon (176 points) continues to lead the championship, albeit with a reduced lead of now 13 points over Palou and 38 points over Newgarden. Indy GP winner Veekay – thanks to his first win – makes a big jump in the standings and is sixth with 135 points.

Legends struggle to find momentum

NASCAR legend and IndyCar rookie Jimmie Johnson continues to wait for his breakthrough in single-seater racing. After finishing 19th and 22nd on the first two circuits at Barber and St. Petersburg, the Chip Ganassi driver finished a disappointing 24th at the Indy GP. Johnson thus finished last out of all drivers who saw the chequered flag.

Returnee Juan Pablo Montoya did not seem to make much headway either. The Colombian, who is driving the third McLaren SP car for the two races in Indianapolis, did not cause any sensation by finishing 21st. However, his result is put into perspective when looking at his teammates’ results. O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist only achieved a below-average result with 15th and 17th place themselves. 

Dixon secures pole for Indy 500, Penske trails behind

Credit: Chris Owens

The reigning IndyCar champion raced to the top spot on the grid for the year’s most important race during qualifying for the Indy 500. With a four-lap average of 231.685 miles per hour (372.861 kilometres per hour), Dixon edged out Herta (231.655 miles per hour) by a whisker. The front row is completed by Indy GP winner VeeKay (231.511 miles per hour).

Next on the grid are Ed Carpenter (Ed Carpenter Racing) and Tony Kanaan (Chip Ganassi Racing), two real veterans and oval specialists. With a combined total of over 450 IndyCar starts, the two will also be among the candidates for victory in the race. Sixth place and thus the outside of the second row of the grid went to the formidable Spaniard Palou.

The biggest surprise, however, was the performance of Team Penske. Rookie McLaughlin, of all people, achieved the best team result. A result, however, that was not particularly positive in 17th place. The New Zealander’s highly experienced teammates will only start the race from 21st (Newgarden), 26th (Pagenaud) and 32nd (Power). A bitter disappointment for the most successful team at the Indy 500 (18 victories) headed by team boss and track owner Roger Penske.

Chris Liemann