As Rinus VeeKay rounded Turn 14 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course Saturday, checkered flag in sight on his way to winning the GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, NBC cameras also were locked on two other people: Evelien and Marijn van Kalmthout.
They are the parents of the newest NTT INDYCAR SERIES winner, who goes by VeeKay professionally, but his last name is van Kalmthout.
The two shared hugs with each other and team members as tears flowed and cheers belted out in between breaths. This moment was 12 years in the making for the 20-year-old Dutch driver and his parents.
“I will never forget this today,” Marijn said. “The last 10 laps, my heart was beating, I was light in my head, and I was crying. I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my goodness, all the cameras.’ But I don’t care. This is what we’ve been fighting for. It’s the best day of my life, even better than the day he was born.”
Rinus’ older sister, Michelle, was on FaceTime with their mother from her home in the Netherlands during the final laps. It was truly a family affair.
“It’s an incredible day, also for our daughter,” Evelien said. “She was watching live, and she’s also so proud. It’s the four of us, and it’s a family effort.”
When Rinus is interviewed after a successful outing, which happen often these days, he almost always thanks his parents for helping get to where he is at today. He insists they sacrificed “everything” to help him achieve a dream he’s had since he was 8 years old.
Parents will do almost anything within their power to help their kids achieve their dreams. It just so happens that Rinus’ dream took him across the world and required a lot of time and money to make a reality.
When Rinus was a child growing up in Hoofddorp, Netherlands, he always had an interest in racing. He was introduced to the sport through his father, who was a racer.
From the time they bought Rinus his first go-kart at age 8, the family started racing quite literally around the world. In one week, it was usual for the family to be in Sepang, Malaysia, on Sunday, then in Miami on Tuesday and back in the Netherlands on Thursday so Rinus could be in school for a day before heading back to a karting track around the world.
Marijn sold all the apartments he owned to fund Rinus’ dream, and Evelien quit her job to have time to take her son from point A to point B and be at every one of his races.
“For me, I gave up the normal life, but I love the crazy life,” she said. “I was just being a mom and doing mom things (before Rinus’ career took off). I worked in a business, but now I live out of a suitcase. It’s fine by me. If I have days like this, it’s worth living.”
There were certainly stressful times – moments Marijn insists he will never forget – and the fear of “what if?” What if all of this is for nothing? What if Rinus doesn’t have what it takes to become a successful race car driver?
“I put in what I could,” Marijn said. “But then you come to a level that gets risky. To go bankrupt as a family because your son has to be an INDYCAR driver, and he doesn’t make it … what do you do then? You work for nothing.
“We went very far. It was a lot of stress. But because he was so successful at every step, very quickly, we made it happen. He’s the guy that deserves all the credit. But we did everything for him.”
The couple calls themselves “a real racing family.” Michelle, who is 25, is all in on supporting her brother’s career. Marijn and Evelien sat down with their daughter to ensure she was going to be OK with the time, focus and investment they were going to be putting into their son. She gave them an overwhelming approval.
It’s been an incredible journey for the family ever since, and it’s all gone according to plan. Marijn said when they started this journey, there was a plan in place. If Rinus didn’t show improvements every year on the track, it was over.
But Rinus never stopped improving. By age 12 he was the youngest junior karting champion in the Netherlands. Just a few years after that, he landed a driver test for the Road to Indy ladder system.
He won three USF2000 races in 2017. In 2018 he won seven races and the Indy Pro 2000 championship. He rose to Indy Lights in 2019 and scored six wins before finishing second in the championship. By that point, Ed Carpenter knew Rinus was the driver he wanted in his newly open No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet.
The 2020 season certainly saw its ups and downs, but Rinus continued to show improvement. He crashed out of his first race at Texas Motor Speedway, but then he scored a top-five finish in July’s GMR Grand Prix and a pole and podium finish in the INDYCAR Harvest GP Race 1 – both on the IMS road course. He was also named Rookie of the Year.
And now he’s an NTT INDYCAR SERIES race winner.
“I’m extremely grateful,” Rinus said from atop the IMS Victory Podium Saturday. “My parents, they sacrificed everything to get me up here. They’ve worked as hard as me to get where we are now, so it’s great just getting to soak in this whole experience with me.
“It’s amazing to have them here. I love them.”