MOORESVILLE, N.C. – It’s been a long, strange road for the NTT IndyCar Series leading into Saturday night’s Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway.
But for Ed Carpenter Racing rookie driver Rinus VeeKay, it was an even longer, stranger trip for him to get to Texas.
VeeKay is from Hoofddorp, The Netherlands. The current ban on travel from international destinations because of COVID-19, it was a challenge just to get into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security eased its measures to allow international athletes into the United States, but originally race drivers were not included.
A collective effort that including NASCAR, IMSA and IndyCar helped get that changed, but in the meantime VeeKay flew into Mexico before gaining entry back to the United States.
“It was tough to get back to the U.S.,” he said. “When I heard the race was going to be on June 6, I knew the borders were going to remain closed. Well, we worked together really hard with the team, my management, the NTT IndyCar Series. We found some solution to go to Mexico, stay there for a little bit, stayed there for my quarantine.
“We got the green light to go to the United States. I’m now in Texas so I’m very happy.”
Two days ago, VeeKay posted on his Twitter feed a photo of him at baggage claim at DFW Airport with a “thumbs up” saying “That’s right USA. I’m here.”
On Saturday, he will climb into one of Ed Carpenter Racing’s Chevrolets and prepare for his NTT IndyCar Series debut in the Genesys 300.
“It was very complicated,” VeeKay said. “With the borders being closed, only flights going for necessary people, it was tough to make sure the borders would open for me. I’ve had many weeks of no sleep.
“But at the end, everyone really worked extremely hard to make it happen for me. Ed also worked super hard. At the end it was quite a journey going through Mexico and then to the United States. But, just being here for the race is what matters.
“It took a long time to get the approval. At one time it was going to get less and less time till the race. We tried to go for safe, go to Mexico, at least be there, be closer to the U.S. If we don’t get an approval, I can stay in Mexico, then travel to the U.S.
“That was just something safe, trying to be sure that I made it. Once I was there, I got the approval. I stepped on the airplane and got to Texas.”
Team owner Ed Carpenter will also be competing in Saturday night’s race in the No. 20 Chevrolet. He is the only owner/driver in the series and competes in all the oval races on the schedule.
Carpenter went to great measures to get VeeKay into the country.
“As a team, we worked very closely with IndyCar, Indiana Senator Todd Young’s office in Indianapolis and other senators,” Carpenter explained. “There was a high level of transparency of what we were trying to do and accomplish. There was a whole lot of people that helped make that happen, do it the right way.
“Luckily, as all this was transpiring, they exempted pro athletes, which motorsports initially wasn’t on. It was an effort between IndyCar, IMSA, NASCAR all working together to make sure that racing drivers weren’t excluded from entering.
“I’m really thankful for everyone that played a part in getting Rinus, Alex Palou and many other drivers back in the country.”
Carpenter admitted he had to come up with a backup plan, just in case the VeeKay could not get into the United States.
“You have to have a Plan B in place with this complex of an issue that we were dealing with, with the border closures and travel restrictions,” Carpenter said. “We had a very good Plan B. Plan A was always the focus and we worked hard to get Rinus back. We’re thankful that he’s here and he can finally get his season started.”
Now that the hard part is out of the way, VeeKay can focus on the race.
“I had the oval test after the COTA test beginning of this season,” VeeKay explained. “It was amazing actually with the IndyCar. Everything feels so perfect. The speed, the G force, everything is very insane. It was a great test. We made good progress with the car also. I was very, very pleased with that.
“Coming to this weekend with limited time in running and everything, I think it’s very, very helpful to have Ed as my teammate. I think I’ll be asking him a lot of questions in the weekend.”