Just days after undergoing surgery for a broken collar bone suffered in a bicycle accident, Rinus VeeKay is back at the racetrack this weekend at Road America. Just not in the car.
NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship contender VeeKay said he was riding his road bike on a straight, smooth biking path when he suddenly was thrown over the handlebars. In an effort not to land face-first on the ground, VeeKay said he turned his body and landed on his left arm and back, breaking his collarbone.
“I’m very jealous. I’m not a jealous person, but I’m very jealous standing here seeing all the guys go,” VeeKay said. “I feel very bad for the team. The season has been amazing so far.
“I love this track. It’s my favorite. I’m very sad, but good that it’s only a collarbone and nothing else. I know this team is a great group of guys, and it’s great they gave Oliver (Askew) the opportunity to show what he can do.”
Ed Carpenter Racing brought in Oliver Askew to drive the No. 21 Direct Supply Chevrolet this weekend in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Askew and VeeKay go way back as rivals, swapping championship seasons all throughout their time in the Road to Indy ladder system. Askew won the USF2000 championship in 2017, VeeKay won the Indy Pro 2000 title in 2018, and Askew won the Indy Lights championship in 2019.
Dutchman VeeKay had eight screws inserted in his clavicle this week, but he is not wearing a sling or cast to protect his collarbone. VeeKay said his doctors told him soft movements of his arm and shoulder will help keep the arm loose while healing. The surgeons made an incision to insert the screws in an area that would not impact putting on or taking off his HANS Device once he returns to the cockpit.
VeeKay said he expects to be back in the No. 21 at the next NTT INDYCAR SERIES race, the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on Sunday, July 4 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course near Columbus, Ohio. He also said he will go all out to win every race to make up for the points he is missing this weekend.
2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Rookie of the Year VeeKay noted two-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Josef Newgarden had a similar injury in 2016 and was back in the race car in no time. So, VeeKay solicited tips from Newgarden, the driver of the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.
Newgarden sustained a fractured clavicle and small fracture in his right hand in a race at Texas Motor Speedway in 2016 while driving for Ed Carpenter Racing. Newgarden finished eighth in the next event at Road America and won the race after that at Iowa Speedway.
“The doctor said that is definitely a good goal,” VeeKay said of returning at Mid-Ohio. “Five years ago, Josef Newgarden broke his collarbone in the No. 21 car just before this event, and five days after his surgery he was driving. He told me it was quite good to handle. I will have way more days than he had, so there’s no worries.”
Askew Leads New Faces in Solid Opening Practice
For the second weekend in a row, Oliver Askew is serving in a substitution position, and this one is off to a strong start.
Askew, subbing in place of Rinus VeeKay, who broke his collarbone in a bicycle accident earlier this week, posted the ninth-fastest speed of the opening NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice for the REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR. Askew’s best lap time was 1 minute, 48.3000 seconds in the No. 21 Direct Supply Chevrolet.
“It’s just like riding a bike,” Askew quipped unintentionally about getting back in the seat after not having a full-time ride this season. “I’m super pleased with (today’s performance). Everyone at Ed Carpenter Racing has made me feel at home. Luckily, we had a simulation day on Wednesday afternoon that helped us jell together and hit the ground running in Practice 1 there. I’m happy with that.”
Askew subbed for Felix Rosenqvist in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet last Sunday in Race 2 of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit. Rosenqvist crashed heavily in Race 1 Saturday and was not cleared to race Sunday.
Wearing Juan Pablo Montoya’s race suit and Alex Palou’s shoes after getting the last-minute call to fill the seat, Askew had a solid day until mechanical issues took him out the race. He finished 25th. In the two NTT INDYCAR SERIES races at Road America last year for Arrow McLaren SP, Askew finished 15th and 21st, respectively.
“My fitness regimen hasn’t changed,” Askew said of his race preparation. “The problem is I’m just not race fit. You can train all you want, but when you get in one of these things, you’re not going to be as fit as guys who have been doing it all season. I think luckily there’s a lot of time on the straightaways to rest. I’m looking forward to the rest of the sessions tomorrow.”
Askew isn’t the only new face in a new place this weekend at Road America. With Rosenqvist not yet cleared by the INDYCAR medical staff to race this weekend, Formula One veteran Kevin Magnussen is now behind the wheel of the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.
Magnussen, now an IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship driver for Chip Ganassi Racing, has never competed in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES before this weekend, though he said he has always wanted to.
In his first outing during Friday’s practice, he was 23rd fastest at the end of the 45-minute practice session with a best lap time of 1:50.4921.
“Today was a lot to take in," Magnussen said. "I took it step by step, and it was fun. It’s a wild beast, heavy in the steering wheel, and it’s got a bit of turbo lag. It’s very, very different to anything I have ever driven. So, it was a great experience, and I can’t wait for tomorrow. I want to thank everyone at Arrow McLaren SP and Chevrolet for helping to get me up to speed."
Just in front of Magnussen was Cody Ware, another NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie. Ware, a veteran of NASCAR and sports car racing, is making his series debut driving the No. 52 Nurtec ODT Honda. He was 22nd fastest with a best lap time of 1:50.2981.
For these three athletes, the two additional practice sessions Saturday on either side of NTT P1 Award Qualifying will be extremely important as they adjust to the challenging open-wheel series.
Practice sessions tomorrow will be at 11:10 a.m. (ET) and 5:30 p.m. (ET), both live on Peacock. NTT P1 Award Qualifying is live on Peacock at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, with delayed coverage at midnight Saturday on NBCSN.
Fire Keeps Jones Out of Practice
Another driver who will put a premium on track time Saturday will be Ed Jones, but for much different reasons than the part-time drivers racing this weekend at Road America.
Just before Friday’s practice session, a small fire broke out on the No. 18 SealMaster Honda. Jones said the fire seared the engine wiring loom and will take hours to fix, sidelining him for the opening practice of the REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR.
“We couldn’t get out for any of the session, so hopefully tomorrow we get it all fixed,” Jones said. “I think we’ll have a really competitive car. It’s frustrating to start off another weekend like this. I think we’ve had five weekends now where the first session we’ve kind of missed. It’s tough, but hopefully we’ll have a fast car and work our way forward tomorrow.”
Jones took solace in the fact that his teammate Romain Grosjean in the No. 51 NURTEC ODT Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with RWR tested at Road America recently. That test collected valuable data for his Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan team that he hopes will help his crew be less behind on Saturday. Grosjean was fastest in practice Friday.
Jones is coming off a solid weekend last week in the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit doubleheader at Belle Isle. He scored his first top-10 finish of the season in Race 1 with a ninth-place result after starting fourth. He started 11th and finished 17th in Race 2.
Odds and Ends
- Conquer Paralysis Now, an organization founded by Sam Schmidt that is devoted to furthering advancements in spinal cord injury research and treatment, announced this week the Arrow Electronics Racing to Recovery Gala presented by Vuse raised over $850,000 from auction and item donations at its annual May event. It was a record amount raised by the event, which exceeded last year’s record by $300,000.
- Dalton Kellett will be down a crew member this weekend as crew chief and outside front tire changer Chris Tucker is at home awaiting the birth of his child this Father’s Day weekend. Pat Nelson will serve in Tucker’s role this weekend for the No. 4 K-Line Insulators / AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet.
- The legendary A.J. Foyt is taking doctor’s orders and staying home this weekend after suffering a heat stroke while working outdoors at one of his properties. Foyt also missed his A.J. Foyt Enterprises teams competing in last weekend’s Chevrolet Dual in Detroit that took place on a hot and humid Belle Isle. “I feel much better now, but my doctors want me to take it easy for now, so I’m trying to listen to them,” Foyt said.
- Firestone Racing is supplying more than 1,500 race tires for the REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR. Each team is allotted seven sets of primary “black” tires, four sets of alternate “red” tires and five sets of rain “gray” tires. Firestone has brought the same tire compound and construction it used in last year’s REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR at Road America.
- Andretti Autosport’s Danial Frost scored the pole position today for the first of two Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires races this weekend at Road America. Frost will lead the field to green at 3:05 p.m. (ET) Saturday.