Sunday’s 101st Indianapolis 500 will be a dream day for all 33 starters.
However, Zach Veach is one of the drivers who will experience it for the first time.
At just 22 years old, the native of Stockdale, Ohio, will make his first Indy 500 start from the 32nd position in his No. 40 Chevrolet for AJ Foyt. In an effort that took more than three years to compile, Veach is proud to do it the way he did.
“To finally be here is something surreal,” Veach said. “To say we did it on our own is pretty special. We made a cold call that led us with Indy Women in Tech, so that brought this whole sponsorship package together.”
It’s been a solid month, but it wasn’t perfect, as Veach smacked the outside wall in Turn 1 in a practice session on May 19. Though crashing is never a good thing, Veach learned how thin the line is when you’re racing at Indy.
“We’ve had some ups and downs but I think that is to be expected being your first time at Indy,” he said. “We unfortunately had our incident where we caught the wall last Friday. If anything, I am more ready to go. I know where that limit is and I know not to overstep it.
“As Rick Mears said, ‘There are ones who hit the wall here and ones who are going to.’ So we’re lucky to get that out of the way and we got a great racecar under us.”
Veach has eyed his chance to start a race in the Verizon IndyCar Series, let alone the Indy 500, his whole life. Starting his Indy Lights career in 2013, Veach captured six wins and 18 podiums in 44 starts.
Despite the success, it took until an injury from JR Hildebrand in April at Barber Motorsports Park before he made his Verizon IndyCar Series debut for Ed Carpenter Racing.
Lightly put, it was “like being thrown into the wolf pit.”
“The first 20 laps felt like an eternity,” Veach said. “I was like, ‘Man, this is going to be a long time.’ We did 20 laps, I look up at the pylon and it still says 70 laps to go.”
Qualifying and finishing 19th, Veach finished all the laps, which is just what he wanted to accomplish in preparation for 200 laps at Indy.
“Honestly, as soon as I got in my rhythm, it was over with before I knew it,” he said. “I think Indy is going to be a lot of the same thing, it’s an hour longer than Barber. But the problem is, when you get expectations you get let down. So we need to have an open mind.”
Veach has never had a problem with being open-minded. Becoming a published author in 2010, Veach has had a firm stance on gratitude. Veach hopes to help others through his experience.
“If you have the best career in your life and you don’t change anyone else’s along the way, you really didn’t do anything at all,” he said. “We’re all in this together. I love racing, I love motorsports, but I want to help people. Luckily, racing has given me the opportunity to help people. It gave me a stage to get in front of. I felt being in a position like this, I had to grow up a lot faster than most people. I wanted to use that experience to help my peers.
“When I do driver introductions to see the people and hear ‘Back Home Again in Indiana,’ that’s going to be the moment I realize that everything has come true.”
And he may have more opportunities to showcase his talent in the future, as Veach is working on a full-time IndyCar ride for 2018. Is the rookie ready for a full slate of racing? “Hell yeah.
“Hopefully we can get back in the saddle toward the end of the year,” he said. “But right now, we are focusing on 2018. I think there is a good chance we could be running full time if things go the right way. We have to make sure we’re doing everything we can once we get out of the car here to get back in one.”
About the author
Growing up in Easton, Pa., Zach Catanzareti has grown his auto racing interest from fandom to professional. Joining Frontstretch in 2015, Zach enjoys nothing more than being at the track, having covered his first half-season of 18 races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2017. With experience behind the wheel, behind the camera and in the media center, he thrives on being an all-around reporter.
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