Rinus van Kalmthout hopes to become the youngest Indy 500 winner in history on Sunday.

The 20-year-old Hoofddorper experienced a promising qualification and starts the prestigious American race from the front row of the grid.

"I really think we can win."

Overnight, 'VeeKay' has turned into a superstar in Indianapolis, the capital of motorsport-loving America every May.

Two weeks ago, a day before he was due to take his first IndyCar victory, he was still able to move anonymously around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"I had qualified seventh and was bouncing down Main Street. No one recognized me," said Van Kalmthout.

"A day later I was in exactly the same place and I ran into a wall of fans. Everyone wanted something from me and I was constantly handing out autographs. My life has really changed."

Van Kalmthout, who became the third Dutch IndyCar winner after his victory after Arie Luyendyk and Robert Doornbos, has been alive ever since.

"It is mainly a lot of little things. I had a Zoom call on American television and did radio things. There is a festival and we visit people's houses. Finally, I also go to the hairdresser, because I have to of course looking nice on the podium. "

For Van Kalmthout, his first victory at the top of American motorsport was a confirmation that he made the right choice a few years ago by racing in the United States.

He left the European motorsport route towards Formula 1 and consciously opted for an adventure in the United States.

He was picked up by the Ed Carpenter Racing team in the IndyCar Series last year through the different entry classes.

After a great debut season - Van Kalmthout finished at the top of the rookie championship, among other things - he continued his form this year with a victory in the fifth race of the season.

Rinus van Kalmthout celebrates after his first victory in the IndyCar Series.

Rinus van Kalmthout celebrates after his first victory in the IndyCar Series.

Photo: Getty Images

Van Kalmthout wants to take revenge for last year

A small blot on his debut year was his result in his first Indy 500. After an excellent qualifying in which he finished fourth, a failed pit stop quickly resulted in a hopeless race in 'The Greatest Spectacle in Racing'.

"That pit stop was a real shame, because then we already had a strong car," said Van Kalmthout.

"I am not afraid that something like this will happen to me again. We have had so many pit stops since then, all of which went well."

Many things have changed for Van Kalmthout compared to last year.

For example, the public is welcome at this edition of the Indy 500.

About 135,000 fans, half of the total capacity, watch the race from the stands.

This makes the Indy 500 the largest public event since the outbreak of the corona pandemic.

"In terms of atmosphere, last year's Indy felt like a test day in disguise. Now I notice how big this race actually is. The people here live for this event. The whole city is dominated by the Indy 500. You can feel the speed and the history. It really comes to life. "

'VeeKay' finished third in qualifying for the Indy 500.

'VeeKay' finished third in qualifying for the Indy 500.

Photo: Getty Images

'I really think we can win the race'

Van Kalmthout starts his second Indy 500 full of ambition. He qualified third and can therefore start the race from the front row.

Just like his racing father Luyendyk did in 1990, after which he also managed to win the prestigious race from that place.

"The car is super fast", says Van Kalmthout.

"I really think we can win the race. Everything was new to me last year and now I know what's coming my way. I want to focus on staying in the top five, preferably in the top three during the race. race. Don't make mistakes, that's the most important thing, and stay out of the chaos. I can take risks, but in the first instance I have to do it calculated. "

While the Indy 500 is on paper one of many races in the IndyCar Series (albeit with double points), the race feels like a one-day, out of season event.

"You're not really busy with the championship here either. Only first place counts. Of course I'm going to build it up slowly, but at the end of the race it's just death or the gladiolus."

If Van Kalmthout manages to win the Indy 500, a milk shower will traditionally await him.

Earlier this month he already passed on his preferred taste.

"I opted for whole milk. I would have preferred

buttermilk

(buttermilk, ed.), But unfortunately they no longer have it nowadays. The thick grain that sticks well. open a bottle of milk. "

The 105th edition of the Indy 500 starts on Sunday around 6 p.m. Dutch time.

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