By Josh Farmer, Contributing Writer
INDIANAPOLIS – Zach Veach has a relaxed mindset ahead of the preparation and tension heading into his second Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
“Ready for it to happen, then we’ll take it lap by lap,” he said.
In his first 500, the 23-year-old from Stockdale, Ohio started 32nd and finished 26th after a mechanical failure. With a year to reflect and landing a full-time ride with Andretti Autosport, he noted that he is very calm and cool heading into his second Indy 500.
“As of right now, I don’t really have any nerves at all,” he said. “Last year gave me the ability to see the race from start to finish what the race is going to be like. Race day, that’s when the nerves come in, you get the jitters.”
Qualifying didn’t go according to plan for Veach, as he qualified 25th. While the result wasn’t what he wanted, he is keeping a positive mindset heading into the race.
“We’ve practiced well, our qual sims are real good, we’ve done five IndyCar Races before this so I just feel ready to go back to work. It’s something that’s starting to feel more natural every day.”
The weather forecast calls for record high temperatures that could reach well into the 90s which will affect the handling of the cars.
“The car is going to be a bit of a handful,” he said. “As track temps go up to 110 and 120 degrees, just overall grip is going to be lacking. Just overall managing your tires, managing your grip, managing conditions the best you can.”
Five races into his freshman season in IndyCar, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate celebrated a high by finishing fourth at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. He wishes to continue that growth in the 500 and throughout the season.
Despite his urge to push himself, Veach knows that there is a lot to learn in his rookie season and he needs to aim for measured growth.
“There’s always two types of guys that come in,” he said. “There are ones with the talent right away and the other guys are there and have to work hard. I’ve always had to be one of the workers my whole career.
“Just where we started in Indy Lights to being able to contend for championships. I expect the same kind of thing to happen here. We have some good races, we have some not so good races. Right now, it’s just gaining experience and learning what I have to improve on each weekend.”
In spite of everything ahead of the six-time Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire race winner, he is purely exhilarated to be racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His first driving experience at the track came during an Indy Lights test in 2013.
Rather than feeling intimidated by the daunting racing mecca, he simply took in the moment.
“I remember coming out on pit lane and the sun was still coming up,” he said. “Super bright in your face, in your eyes and the stands were this beautiful orange from the sunrise. To me, that’s something that I’ve always remembered.”
He had perhaps another emotional moment during pre-race ceremonies last year. That made him sit back and reflect on the road that brought him to the Indianapolis 500.
Now, my thing is back home again in Indiana. Hearing that as you are strapped in the car, I had tears in my eyes last year and I definitely expect that I’ll have the same thing this year. That is the moment where you realize how much went into getting here. How many nights, days – it’s been a hell of a journey, and It’s just starting.