By Brian Eberly, Contributing Writer
NEWTON, Iowa — Zach Veach is in midst of his rookie Verizon IndyCar Series season with Andretti Autosport and the Graduate of Mazda Road to Indy is the first driver to race on all levels with the same team. That bond with the Andretti organization has been critical in his first full season of IndyCar competition.
“From Day 1, they’ve been family. To have them a part of my journey has always been extremely special,” Veach told Motorsports Tribune. “I’ve been able to get that relationship with Michael (Andretti) and all the mechanics, honestly because they’ve been there as long as I have. It feels like a family.
“We’ve spent so much time with each other we all know how each person operates. Michael, I’ve been very lucky for him to invest so much time into me to help me be the person that I want to be inside the race car.”
It also helps that the 23-year-old driver has teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi and Marco Andretti, all multiple-time IndyCar winners, to lean on for assistance.
“I think the biggest thing is they’ve all just told me to understand that it takes time. For me, it’s awesome to see the level of commitment that my teammates are at. I’ve leaned on them all equally, but Alex has probably given me some of the best advice just because not too long ago he was an IndyCar rookie as well.
“It’s nice for me that when we go out on track and we come back to the trailer, I’m always seeing a data trace that will get me to the top-five. I’m always seeing the best of the best. I get to see exactly what I need to do to be able to run up front in IndyCar and I couldn’t ask for more than that.”
But the climb to the top of the ladder hasn’t been easy for Veach, as there was a time when he was without a permanent ride and while working hard to find those critical sponsorship dollars in today’s environment, he served as an analyst during Indy Lights radio broadcasts and drove the two-seater with the Indy Racing Experience.
“There were probably two or three times where I thought this was it and that opportunity was never going to come around,” he added.
“I just never wanted to take that for an answer. I just had the faith that as long as I kept working hard and doing whatever it took to get my face in front of people eventually it had to go my way and I’m so thankful that it finally did.”
As the series prepares to take to the 0.894-mile oval for Sunday afternoon’s Iowa Corn 300, Veach is ready for the challenge of the physically and mentally demanding track and is one of five drivers competing at Iowa for the first time in IndyCar Series competition. Veach did finish second to Felix Serralles in the 2016 Indy Lights race at the track dubbed “The Fastest Short Track on the Planet.”
“It’s something that always wakes you up, Iowa does. It’s such a fast track. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how physical it is in an INDYCAR so that’s going to be something that I’m looking forward to seeing. I have a little unfinished business (at Iowa) with our last Indy Lights race. We basically lost the lead in the last corner coming to the last lap.
“You have to use all the different lanes. It’s nice to be at a track where you have that option to be able to run high or low versus how your car is handling. I’m excited to see what we can do out there because we have a lot left to hopefully show.”
Iowa marks Race No. 11 of Veach’s rookie season, one in which the Stockdale, Ohio native has completed 98.7% of the laps.
“I think looking back, I wanted to be a little bit better of a rookie year,” he said. “But then I hear people talk and the things I hear from everyone including my teammates makes me think it’s been a pretty good rookie year so far. I’m always going to be harder on myself than anybody else.
“I’m just trying to learn as much as I can. Finishing every lap of every race or just making sure we’re running at the end of every race has been key because you just don’t get a lot of seat time any more as a rookie. It’s really important for me just to keep learning. I think up to this point it’s just been getting comfortable with the car and getting confident in the car.
“The speed is definitely there. I think that’s becoming more apparent to people. We just need to be consistent and hopefully the second half of this year we’re consistently in the top-10. That’s my goal for the rest of 2018.”