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VeeKay sure his engineer now understands his setup needs

Rinus VeeKay believes Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet will enjoy a far more consistent season in 2022 after long conversations with his race engineer Matt Barnes regarding car setup.

Rinus VeeKay, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

VeeKay’s second season in IndyCar was one of extremes, with him scoring a win in the GP of Indianapolis and a second place in Detroit, but then missing Road America due to a broken clavicle after a training injury and returning in Mid-Ohio when, by his own admission, he “wasn’t 100 percent yet.”

Thereafter, the #21 ECR-Chevy never finished in the Top 15, yet VeeKay believes that was down to the team “struggling a little bit getting up to pace, showing up fast. Instead of tweaking the car a little to get the last few tenths out, we were just trying to determine the whole setup.”

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For 2022, said VeeKay, “the thought about the whole car setup is different. I have spent a lot of time with my engineer, even staying at his house on weekends, doing fun stuff, but still making sure my feedback will be translated in a different way so he can take everything, every little thing I say, and translate it into the setup.

“Right now, he has a better view of what I need in the car than before this off-season. So I think we definitely improved. I think everyone's really at the same level of we know what everyone needs on the car.”

VeeKay says that the highly regarded Barnes, who Team Penske tried to lure across to replace the departing Gavin Ward on Josef Newgarden’s car, has a better feel for what he, VeeKay, requires from his setups.

“We're always in a very serious setting where we're always talking about racing, thinking very deeply,” said VeeKay of his relationship with Barnes. “But now, because I was staying at [his] house for so much time, actually we're just laid back talking, very chilled. If you don't dig so deep, you say very normal things that actually you never think about saying.

“We talked about some stuff about setups. He really knows what I need from a car right now. I said a few things in the off-season which kind of opened his eyes, gave him a direction of thinking, which way we have to go on which tracks.”

VeeKay went on to observe: “Now that I've won my first IndyCar race, I want to win more. In the future I want to win an Indy 500 and also become an IndyCar champion. To be able to do that, I need to find every little speed I can from wherever I can. I think the last half of the season really opened my eyes in a good way. I think it really matured me, too.”

Despite that maturity, 21-year-old VeeKay, who started third and led 32 laps of last year’s Indy 500, says that youth may play in his favor should he find himself in a similar duel to the one fought between Helio Castroneves and Alex Palou in 2021.

“I have a lot of experience now in Indy, actually running in the front, passing cars and everything,” he said. “And I know with Ed Carpenter Racing I have a great car.

“I just cannot wait for the Indy 500 this year. Really I feel like a veteran now going to my third Indy 500. I might have an advantage being a little younger and not knowing the dangers compared to Helio.”

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