At the age of 23, VeeKay is entering his fifth season in North America’s premier open-wheel championship.
His performance last year was subpar, with only two top-10 finishes and a best result of sixth, resulting in a 14th-place standing. Statistically, it marked the worst season of his career. Nevertheless, facing the challenges of such a demanding campaign led to personal and organizational growth.
Reflecting on the tough season, VeeKay acknowledged its impact on him and the team, stating, “With it being our toughest, hardest season so far, it made me work harder and also made me change my voice a little bit in the team and made my voice a bit more demanding, I think. I feel like I’ve always really listened to the team, to what they say. I still do, but I think right now I’ve also got the voice like I can talk to them and really make them change things if we need to.”
The 2023 season saw ECR’s midseason driver swap, transitioning VeeKay’s teammate from Conor Daly to Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2012 IndyCar champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner. While this swap undoubtedly influenced VeeKay, team owner/driver Ed Carpenter emphasized that it was a combination of factors, including maturity on and off the track.
“I think it’s all of the above,” Carpenter said. “He gets more and more of his own experience. I’m sure there definitely was an effect from Ryan, just learning from a great teammate, a veteran teammate, a champion, an Indy 500 winner, being around that, seeing how he approaches it, and just getting older. He’s married now. Your life changes as you get older. Your perspective changes. I think it’s all of those things.”
Carpenter’s words not only motivate VeeKay but also position him as a mentor for the incoming rookie and reigning Indy NXT champion Christian Rasmussen, who is now in the car previously occupied by Hunter-Reay.
VeeKay expressed confidence, saying, “Yeah, it does give me confidence to hear that, but also, I believe I’m ready. This is going to be my fifth season in IndyCar. We’ve had to go through a lot with the team, so it’s been a fun ride so far. I’ve always had a more experienced driver next to me. I still have Ed on the ovals, but I feel like I have the experience to carry the team and know what we need to do as a team to get better. Also, during a race weekend, I know how to adapt to get better. I also think Christian trusts me and my experience. I think it’ll be a good season, and I’m totally ready for the leadership role.”
When discussing leadership, VeeKay credited Hunter-Reay with showing him the ropes. He highlighted the meticulous preparation of his former teammate, noting, “The preparation with Ryan, that he really showed me, he would have a whole notebook of things he thought about at night that popped up in his head, and he wrote it down and analyzed it and thought about it even more.
Stuff like that I had never done. I just started carrying a notebook that I just wrote stuff in and thought about. I tried to just be as ready as possible for every race and not try to find things out on the fly. That really helped. I think I was more prepared in situations in a race, whereas in the past, I would kind of be in doubt of what to do. I really had a strong opinion on where to go. I think those are things that really helped me just be more ready for the races.”