How ECR’s Broyles kicked it up a notch for VeeKay in qualifying

The bravest person this year at the Indianapolis 500 wasn’t strapped into one of the 240mph missiles.

In fact, Tim Broyles was merely standing on pit lane, dressed in dark pants and his Ed Carpenter Racing team shirt, making the ballsiest call of the event last weekend when his driver Rinus VeeKay was sitting towards the bottom of the qualifying results.

The young Dutchman’s crash Saturday morning set the No. 21 ECR Chevy program back as one would expect. Broyles, ECR’s general manager, oversaw the effort as their amazing crew members scrambled to repair VeeKay’s car.

With a ready machine to roll back out to the qualifying line to try and get in the show the heat of the day, blazing speed was not on their side.


“Obviously, with how the whole morning played out, we thought we had a fast car with Rinus and we actually thought we had three fast cars with Ed [Carpenter] and Christian [Rasmussen], but then the incident happens with Rinus and you have all your nice, shiny, new, perfectly-fit parts on the car thrown into a bucket of crashed parts,” Broyles told RACER as he uncorked an epic tale.

“Right there, we made a quick decision to stick with that car instead of building up a backup car and just move some components from the backup car over, which was going to be [VeeKay’s] Detroit [street race] car, so it was not exactly your best Speedway stuff, but it should get him in the race.

“We put the car back together and used a qualifying attempt to actually do a leak check. I don’t know if a lot of people realize what was going on there. We went out on track and had Rinus run a couple straightaways, and they ended up waving it off, because he was going so slow, but we were just mainly leak checking and making sure everything was good after putting the car back in one piece.

“He brought it back, we tried to get some time to cool the engine down in pit lane — which you can really never get done in pit lane, and especially as warm as it was — but got it somewhere close to cool and he went out and made his initial run.”

With the limitations brought about by using a Speedway-tuned car that had some non-Speedway components installed out of necessity to get back on track, VeeKay did well to secure 29th in the 33-car field. He wasn’t at risk of being bumped, but it was a hollow feeling for Carpenter, Broyles, and the rest of the team which has grown accustomed to VeeKay charging onto the first two starting rows at the Indy 500.

It’s here where Broyles took a massive roll of the dice.

With ambient temperatures starting to come down and cloud cover having a modest cooling effect on the Speedway, faster runs in the final hour of Saturday’s qualifying session — one where the drivers in 13th though 30th like VeeKay would be locked into place and done for the weekend — meant there was limited time left to see if the repaired ECR Chevy could give qualifying another go and move VeeKay closer to the front of the field.

And with IndyCar’s unique Indy 500 qualifying rules, teams have two lanes to choose from to send their drivers through: The “safe” lane where attempts can be made to improve your speed and starting spot where there’s no risk of losing your existing speed and spot if you don’t go faster, and then there’s the “fast” lane, which nobody uses, which requires teams to forfeit their driver’s starting spot — becoming unqualified — before making an attempt. Even the slightest issue during a fast-lane run could lead to failure and send the driver and car home. Slow, but safely in the field, VeeKay wasn’t in jeopardy of missing the Indy 500.

That was, of course, until Broyles’ brass balls entered the equation.

“I was sitting there around the five o’clock hour and the (safe) line was starting to get long,” he said. “We’re watching the weather and waiting for somebody that we thought would put in a reasonable time just to get a read on the track. And I think it was (Agustin) Canapino who went out and ran a 233mph and it was like, ‘OK, the track’s pretty good.’

“So I looked at the guys, and I’m like, ‘I’m probably going to live to regret this, but let’s go!’ I surprised everybody. I’m probably on the conservative side at times, but for all the effort that went in to get that car ready, and to know that we had a fast car but couldn’t show it, I said, ‘They deserve the opportunity, all of them as a group.’

“And the (safe) lane was only getting fuller, so I walked down there to the IndyCar race officials as the guys pushed the car into the (fast) lane, and saw (IndyCar president) Jay Frye and (race director) Kyle Novak and (race steward) Gary Barnard, walk up and hand Gary the withdrawal paperwork, and Jay says, ‘You know, you’re the only guy who would withdraw a car today…’ So I said, ‘I know…I’m probably gonna get the ‘Dumbass Award’ here today.’

“So Rinus fires the thing up and leaves and I walked up pit lane and tried to find a quiet spot by the scoring pylon, by myself, and Rinus did what we thought he would and sticks it into the Fast 12. I think it made it a pretty exciting day for the fans over here and everybody else. It’s fun when it works out.”

A collective achievement to celebrate for VeeKay and the ECR crew. Mike Young/Penske Entertainment

The mental toll of pulling VeeKay out of the Indy 500 and waiting to see if his plan would backfire and end in misery left Broyles in need of a long nap.

“Talk about being exhausted,” he said. “I have complete faith in our group; they have each other’s back. That’s the culture that we have here. And that’s what makes it fun, right? But you don’t want too many days like this one. After qualifying, you’re walking down pit lane, and it all hits you and you’re just so exhausted.

“One of our team owners, Stuart Reid, walked up and said, ‘Who had the balls to do that?’ And laughed about it at the time. Like I said, it’s those guys, they earned it. The best part about it was seeing the joy in their in their eyes and excitement they had when Rinus put up those big speeds that made it worth it.”

VeeKay’s crew chief was given the Clint Brawner Award for mechanical excellence after authoring the quick crash fixes and getting his driver into the Fast 12.

“It’s a really cool side story that Austin Shepherd won the Brawner Award, and that’s like a group award, right?” Broyles said. “That’s about all the guys around you, but to be recognized individually was pretty cool, too. The hardest thing I had to do is turn in that piece of paper and put myself in the running for the ‘Dumbass Award.’ They did the actual work, they got dirty, and I just had to walk down and hand in a piece of paper.”

Story originally appeared on Racer