Rinus VeeKay becomes IndyCar’s third first-time winner in 2021. Romain Grosjean takes maiden podium at GMR Grand Prix.

A miraculous display of race-craft saw Rinus VeeKay take his first IndyCar career victory at the GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis. He crossed the line five seconds ahead of pole-sitter Romain Grosjean who also was in contention for his first win in the series.

The 20-year-old Dutchman became the fifth winner in five IndyCar races, three of those all being first-time winners in 2021. The win also saw Ed Carpenter Racing in victory lane for the first time since Iowa 2016, won by two-time champion Josef Newgarden

VeeKay becomes the fourth winner 24 or younger to win in 2021 alongside Colton Herta, Patricio O’Ward, and Alex Palou in what seems like a significant changing of the guard.

Romain Grosjean takes 2nd at the GMR Grand Prix. Photo Courtesy of Joe Skibinski.

Romain Grosjean led off the start, building a four-second gap on closest rival Jack Harvey in second.  The Frenchman spent 44 laps in the lead but came undone after the second pit stop window. VeeKay, who had managed to undercut Grosjean by seven laps sliced his way through the field pulling off a marvelous three-wide overtake on Jimmie Johnson and Alex Palou in the process.

Meanwhile, Grosjean lost time against the backmarker of Takuma Sato who tried his best to keep himself on the lead-lap. After Grosjean emerged from the pits VeeKay was under a second behind and eventually pulled off the overtake on Lap 49. Stringing together three incredible stints on the red soft compound tyres, VeeKay never looked back, claiming his first career victory, the first Dutchman to do so since Robert Doornbos in Canada 2007.

This also marks Romain Grosjean’s first podium since the 2015 Belgium Grand Prix in what is a miraculous comeback after his near-fatal crash at Bahrain.

Alex Palou at the GMR Grand Prix. Photo Courtesy of Matt Fraver.

Alex Palou continues his strong form bringing home his second podium of the season. After O’Ward’s 15th place finish, the young Spaniard retakes second place in the points standings.

Newgarden did well to recover after losing his place off the start to Britain’s Jack Harvey. The American diced with Palou for the majority of the race, but it well could have been a slow pit-stop which resulted in him taking home fourth, in what is now four out of four races finishing in the top-six. Since retiring in the first race of the season at Barber, he has recovered to third in the points standings.

It was a superb display of strategy which saw Graham Rahal take home fifth place. After getting caught up in a first-lap melee involving Conor Daly, the Rahal Letterman driver made a stop under caution, opting for a two-stop strategy.

Simon Pagenaud led a largely anonymous race, but the speed of his Penske helped move him up the order from tenth to sixth at the end of the race.

Alexander Rossi had to get his elbows out and deal with potential engine issues to move from 14th on the grid to cross the line in seventh ahead of rookie Scott McLaughlin who picked up another top ten finish.

Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson climbed up from their disappointing qualifying positions to round out the top ten.

O’Ward tried to follow Scott Dixon with an early pit stop on Lap Four under caution. But the Arrow McLaren SP driver returned to the pits after struggling on that compound, ruining his race and finishing in 15th.

Britain’s Jack Harvey fell out of contention for the win after stalling during a slow pit stop. After coming out of the pits he suffered what seemed to be a puncture and had to return to the pits immediately, dropping him to twenty third.

However, it is still Scott Dixon who leaves as championship leader going into the Indianapolis 500 at the end of May.

 

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