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Capitalizing on a few daring moves Saturday in the GMR Grand Prix, Rinus VeeKay became the third first-time winner in the NTT IndyCar Series this season with an inspired drive at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
The 20-year-old Dutchman became the fifth winner in five IndyCar races and fourth who is under 25 (joining Colton Herta, 21; Pato O’Ward, 22; and Alex Palou, 24). He joined O’Ward and Palou as the third first-time winner in five races in 2021.
VeeKay started seventh and seized command by taking the lead in a flourish from pole-sitter Romain Grosjean with 37 laps remaining. VeeKay’s No. 21 Dallara-Chevrolet yielded the lead for four laps on a green-flag pit cycle and then retook first the rest of the way on Lap 65 of 85.
In becoming the sixth-youngest winner in IndyCar history at 20 years, 8 months and 3 days, VeeKay delivered the first victory for Ed Carpenter Racing since Josef Newgarden at Iowa Speedway, July 10, 2016.
“We had an awesome start to the weekend, best start I’ve ever had,” VeeKay told NBC Sports pit reporter Marty Snider after winning in his 19th IndyCar start. “I knew we had the car, and we were so fast. Just the perfect day. It’s amazing.”
Grosjean finished second in his third IndyCar start, followed by Palou, Josef Newgarden and Graham Rahal.
The last IndyCar season with three first-time winners was 2013: James Hinchcliffe, Mike Conway, Takuma Sato, Charlie Kimball
Earlier, VeeKay set himself up for the victory with a daring pass of the Chip Ganassi Racing cars of Palou and Jimmie Johnson, splitting the middle between them.
VeeKay was fastest in the Saturday morning warmup at IMS, whose road course layout has meshed well with his style. He scored his first IndyCar pole and finished third last October on the IMS road course on the same weekend he re-signed with Ed Carpenter Racing.
The 2021 season got off to a tough start for VeeKay, who had a heavy crash last month in Indy 500 testing on the IMS oval that broke a finger. But he finished in the top 10 of three of the next four races.
The race’s only yellow flag came on Lap 1 when Conor Daly’s No. Dallara-Chevrolet stopped in the grass adjacent to Turn 1 after contact with Simon Pagenaud. IndyCar race control reviewed the start but took no action.
The race restarted on Lap 4, and Grosjean quickly pulled away to a comfortable lead.
Rinus VeeKay is newest IndyCar first-time winner, capturing GMR Grand Prix at Indy originally appeared on NBCSports.com