Rinus VeeKay signs new multi-year deal with Ed Carpenter Racing
As uncertainty continues to swirl around two of the major potential Silly Season openings, Rinus VeeKay wasted little time after his negotiation window opened to solidify a new long-term deal with the only IndyCar home he's ever known. On Thursday, the 21-year-old Dutch driver, along with Ed Carpenter Racing, jointly announced a new multi-year deal that will keep VeeKay manning the No. 21 Chevy for "2023 and beyond."
VeeKay had said publicly weeks back that he would be allowed to negotiate with teams starting Aug. 1. His name was often brought up as a prime option in the increasingly unclear driver situations that surround Chip Ganassi Racing and Arrow McLaren SP. Given CGR's lawsuit against its championship-winning driver Alex Palou and Palou's desire to join the McLaren Racing family following the end of this season, it's not immediately clear who will man CGR's No. 10 Honda or AMSP's entry not driven next year by either Alexander Rossi and Pato O'Ward.
Rather than subject himself to the uncomfortable waiting game until the Ganassi lawsuit is settled and both teams figure out their futures, VeeKay opted to stay in the seat where he's won a race and started on pole twice in his two-plus years in IndyCar.
"Ed Carpenter gave me the opportunity to drive for the team when I came out of Indy Lights and has let me showcase my talents in an Indy car ever since," VeeKay said in a release. "The continuity at ECR is great. There have barely been any changes in my time here, and it's very nice to have the same group of people around me all the time.
"We have been stepping up our game every season, and with the support of Todd Ault and BitNile, we can really move forward as we head into 2023."
As he finishes up his final four races of the 2022 campaign and begins to look toward a fourth year at ECR in 2023, VeeKay will become ECR's longest tenured full-time driver in the team's 11-year history. He currently sits 11th in the season-long points race, which would mark the best finish in his career, though he holds just a 17-point deficit to 8th-place Felix Rosenqvist.
The latest IndyCar news:
- At IMS' showcase crossover weekend, IndyCar felt like an afterthought
- Andretti fined $25,000, Rossi docked 20 points for post-race inspection penalty
- Palou's lawyers seek to move Chip Ganassi lawsuit to federal court, plan countersuit
- After no wins in 3 years, decision to separate, Rossi and Andretti deliver 1 more time
A season that started off strong -- three top-10s through four races that included a podium and pole at Barber Motorsports Park -- when VeeKay was known to be in the final year of his deal with ECR left some wondering if he might take a leap to a larger team, as Josef Newgarden did in 2016 before he landed at Team Penske the following year. VeeKay's inconsistency over the next nine races, including qualifying on the front row for the Indianapolis 500 and then crashing out from near the front in the first 50 laps, as well as four consecutive finishes outside the top-15, seemed to diminish those chances of the young driver moving on a bit.
Still, he's landed a pair of top-5s over the last month -- 4th-place finishes at Mid-Ohio and Iowa Race 1 -- that have done well in continuing to flash VeeKay's potential. His mission, along with Ed Carpenter and ECR moving into this next deal, will be about trying to achieve those results on a more consistent basis that would allow the driver of the No. 21 become a fringe title contender.
"I'm so happy to be able to extend our relationship with Rinus," Carpenter said in a release. "He's an extremely versatile and talented driver. It has been and remains our hope to build our team to new heights with Rinus helping lead the charge. Our goals and expectations are to win races and to compete for championships.
"With Rinus's growth and the support from BitNile and Todd Ault, we are primed for success."
What does this mean for IndyCar Silly Season?
With ECR locking down VeeKay, days after Juncos Hollinger Racing re-signed rookie Callum Ilott to a new long-term contract, two of the youngest, hottest names on the IndyCar market have been taken off the free agent table. At Dale Coyne Racing and Meyer Shank Racing, both teams seem likely to hold onto their respected veteran drivers Takuma Sato and Helio Castroneves, respectively, leaving the bulk of the remaining Silly Season uncertainty around A.J. Foyt Racing's drivers for 2023, who JHR might hire for a likely second full-time car and how the result of the Ganassi-Palou lawsuit will impact the market.
Should Ganassi be ruled as to having Palou's rights for 2023, barring a buyout, the team owner has stated multiple times he wants to continue pursuing wins and championships with the 2021 title-winner. It would also leave McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown with the difficult decision of whether to move the team's current driver of the No. 7 Chevy Felix Rosenqvist on to help start up McLaren's new Formula E team or aim for more consistency in IndyCar and inexperience in the international electric racing series. Should Palou emerge victorious, there's then the questions not only of who Ganassi would plug into his seat, but if Ganassi would remain at four full-time cars, as well as where Palou would race within McLaren for 2023 that would undoubtedly send various ripple effects throughout the organization.