Strong qualifying run puts rookie VeeKay in Indy shootout

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Rinus VeeKay made quite an impression with his first qualifying lap for the Indianapolis 500 — posting a career- best 231.789 mph.

He thinks he can go even faster.

The 19-year-old Dutch rookie took over the top qualifying spot briefly Saturday with a four-lap average of 231.114 before settling for the No. 6 seed in Sunday’s nine-car pole shootout.

“It doesn’t feel quick enough,” VeeKay said when asked about driving at such high speeds. “You always want to go quicker. The only thing you kind of feel speed wise is you can hear the revs being higher than they are normally.”

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Indy is quickly becoming one of VeeKay’s favorite venues, too.

After team owner Ed Carpenter scolded the teenager for crashing twice in seven hours at Texas, VeeKay rebounded at the next race by driving from 18th to fifth in the Indianapolis Grand Prix, his best finish this season.

And with his top practice lap, 230.331, VeeKay wasn’t expected to be in the shootout mix Saturday.

But he took advantage of the No. 4 qualifying spot, strung together the first consecutive laps at 231 and bumped IndyCar veteran Graham Rahal out of the No. 1 spot on the grid. He wound up as the fastest Chevrolet in qualifications and will be the only Chevy-powered car in the first three rows.

And with a little luck, VeeKay could become the second rookie to win Indy’s pole since 1952. Teo Fabi was the pole-winner in 1983. Tony Stewart, also a rookie, started from the pole in 1996 after pole-winner Scott Brayton was killed in practice. Stewart qualified second that year.

“That first lap was kind of a shocker,” VeeKay said. “This morning I woke up, I said to my trainer, ‘My fast lap is going to be 231.8 and my average was going to be 231.3.’ It was pretty close. I’m really happy, I think the drop from the first to second lap was a little too big but as for the other laps, I think it was my best qualifying ever.”

DAVISON DOUBLE

Team owners Dale Coyne and Rick Ware were wrestling with a decision about where to send English driver James Davison on Sunday.

Following qualifications, Ware announced Davison was headed to Daytona for a Cup race on the road course.

“It’s official, @JD33Davison is heading to @DISupdates to compete in tomorrow’s @NASCAR Cup Series,” Ware posted on Twitter. “He got the (thumbs up) from his entire @IndyCar team to go and kick some butt tomorrow!”

It was unclear whether Davison’s qualifying attempt was a factor in the decision. He topped 230 on his first two laps before the handling became an issue. He finished with a a 228.747 and will start 27th, the outside of Row 9.

POWER STREAK ENDS

On Friday, Will Power said he thought the No. 12 car needed some luck to make the shootout.

When that didn’t happen, Power’s streak of 11 consecutive starts in the first three rows came to an end.

Power’s average of 229.701, sent him to the No. 22 starting spot, easily the worst of his 500 career. His previous low, No. 13, came in 2008 when he was a rookie with KV Racing. Power moved to Team Penske the following years and qualified in the top six in nine of the previous 10 years.

HE’S COMING BACK?

Earlier this year, Tony Kanaan announced he would be making his farewell tour this season.

Those plans may soon be changing. The popular Brazilian driver, who won the 500 in 2013, started rethinking his position after COVID-19 forced fans out of the stands.

“After this year, I think anybody is allowed to change their mind, because when I announced ‘TK Last Lap,’ it was to enjoy it with the fans at the racetrack and have a good time with them and so on, and that didn’t happen,” he said. ”I want to pay back my fans and friends and IndyCar what made me. This is not a proper way to go. I will rethink and re-evaluate my opportunities and chances, as well, because obviously there aren’t many out there. It’s such a competitive series, and we have such a great group of young kids that deserve a ride. We’ll see, but I am rethinking maybe to do the ‘TK Last Last Lap.’

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