15 May 2021
Rinus Veekay denied Romain Grosjean to take his first IndyCar series victory in the GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis road course.
The Ed Carpenter Racing driver got by polesitter Grosjean after the second round of pit stops and controlled the race from then on, going on to win the 85-lap race by 4.9 seconds.
Grosjean had a strong start to the race, getting the jump on fellow front row starter Josef Newgarden as the green flag dropped.
An early caution period caused by a stricken Conor Daly who was hit by Simon Pagenaud in the first corner did little to halt Grosjean’s progress, who once again got a jump on the field on the restart.
At that point Jack Harvey, who overhauled Newgarden on the initial start, was Grosjean’s nearest challenger. The Meyer-Shank driver opted to pit early on lap 13 in a bid to overhaul Grosjean, who remained on-track until lap 25. He remained in the lead once that pit cycle was completed, keeping Harvey around three seconds behind him.
Harvey’s second stop on lap 38 proved to be the unravelling of his race. A slow stop, compounded by a stall for the Brit, was followed by a puncture on the right rear which meant he had to return to the pits the following lap, taking him well out of contention for the win.
Grosjean’s second stop on lap 43 was also somewhat slow, meanwhile VeeKay who had started in seventh had been cutting his way through the field and sliced by Alex Palou and the lapped Jimmie Johnson in a brave three-wide move on lap 43.
The following tour Veekay, who made his second stop on lap 37, used his warmer, faster ‘red’ tyres to make light work of Grosjean, who was now lumbered with the slower ‘Black’ tyre.
That would be the turning point of the race, and while VeeKay made his final stop on lap 61, Grosjean’s had to follow him in a lap later as he approached traffic, ruining any hope he had of building a gap in clean air before his final service.
With Grosjean back on the faster tyre, he could have potentially come back into a position to win, and although lapped cars once again hampered his progress, he was able to take four seconds out of Veekay in the closing laps as the eventual winner saved fuel.
VeeKay’s maiden IndyCar win came five years to the day that compatriot Max Verstappen won his first Formula 1 race. For Grosjean, who led 44 laps to VeeKay’s 33, his second place finish marked the first time since 2015 that he had stood on the podium in any professional motor race.
Third place went the way of Palou, who finished the race on the slower tyre which arguably cost him a shot at a higher finish. After a slow start, Newgarden finished fourth, ahead of Graham Rhal who had a remarkable race to gain six spots from his starting position after opting to save fuel early on.
Simon Pagenaud was sixth, with Alexander Rossi holding on in spite of engine issues to finish seventh, representing a climb of seven spots after a disappointing qualifying session.
After starting in the top-five, Scott McLaughlin dropped to eighth by race end. Nevertheless that meant a third-straight top-10 finish for the three-time Supercars champion.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon – taking his lowest finish of the year, albeit after a quiet but effective climb from 16th on the grid – and Marcus Ericsson completed the top-10.
After being an early threat for the win, Harvey’s pit lane and tyre woes meant that he finished 23rd and a lap down, just one place ahead of seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson who was the final runner.
After qualifying an impressive six, Daly’s day went from bad to worse. After his lap one off, he eventually finished 25th and last, 33 laps down after battling suspension and gearbox problems.
1. (7) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 85, Running
2. (1) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 85, Running
3. (4) Alex Palou, Honda, 85, Running
4. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running
5. (11) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running
6. (10) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 85, Running
7. (14) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 85, Running
8. (5) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 85, Running
9. (16) Scott Dixon, Honda, 85, Running
10. (15) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 85, Running
11. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 85, Running
12. (19) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 85, Running
13. (8) Colton Herta, Honda, 85, Running
14. (9) Ed Jones, Honda, 85, Running
15. (18) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 85, Running
16. (17) Takuma Sato, Honda, 85, Running
17. (13) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 85, Running
18. (22) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 85, Running
19. (20) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 84, Running
20. (24) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 84, Running
21. (25) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 84, Running
22. (21) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 84, Running
23. (3) Jack Harvey, Honda, 84, Running
24. (23) Jimmie Johnson, Honda, 84, Running
25. (6) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 50, Contact