By Aaron Bearden, Contributing Writer
Rinus Veekay wasn’t surprised when he struggled in the first of two Pro Mazda Championship race at Barber Motorsports Park.
Based on his history at the track, he expected it.
“This was my worst weekend last year,” Veekay told Motorsports Tribune. “So let’s just move on and dominate the rest of the season.”
Veekay rose from seventh to claim a relatively quiet fifth-place run in the Race 1 of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, keeping his car clean and salvaging a decent points day after struggling through an ill-handling No. 2 Juncos Racing Mazda.
On many days such a run would leave the 17-year-old disappointed. But Veekay was content with his effort after 25 laps around the difficult Barber road course.
“I think this was the max for today,” he said. “We were struggling this morning with the setup, and even now. The speed’s not quite there. The team gave me a good enough car to be in the top five.
“I think I can improve off of the data from my teammates. Let’s see if tomorrow will be better.”
Veekay surged into early championship contention with his performance in the season-opening weekend at St. Petersburg, scoring back-to-back wins to top the standings heading into Alabama.
Championship rival Parker Thompson drew within three points of Veekay after his dominant win in the first Barber race, but the Netherlands native still holds the championship lead with 79 points heading into Sunday’s Race 2.
It’s in that race that Veekay hopes a spurt of predicted rain helps level the playing field.
“It looks like it’s going to rain,” Veekay said. “That shuffles the field. That’s good for me.
“In go karts I was a good rain driver, so that makes me confident for the race tomorrow. But still, I only drove in the rain twice in my whole life in a car. It’s going to be about trying to feel the grip in the first few laps an trying to go forward and gain points.”