By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
INDIANAPOLIS — For Zach Veach, people doubting him is nothing new.
“When I first got to Indy Lights everybody was saying ‘There’s no way Veach is going to be able to finish races,’ and by the end of our career in Indy Lights we were running off ten second leads in Indy Lights and had pretty dominant campaigns,” Veach said.
Looking at Veach, it’s easy to see why. When seeing him for the first time, many might assume the Ohio native isn’t old enough to vote yet, let alone drive a race car professionally. Upon hearing that he’s 22 years old, they might disbelieve him and hearing that he’s driving in the 101st Indianapolis 500 for A.J. Foyt Racing, they definitely might think he’s lying. However, Veach is used to having to make big transitions and sees IndyCar just as another transition.
“You know I think now that I’ve been doing it, I know what I need to do,” Veach said.
“My first year in series are always tough for some reason, then we come back second year and third year and everything’s great. I’m one of those drivers that learns a lot and works hard to become better and I think it’s going to have the same trend here.”
His debut last month at Barber Motorsports Park was rushed upon him. Full time Ed Carpenter Racing driver J.R. Hildebrand broke part of his left hand at Long Beach and wasn’t fully healed up, necessitating a replacement which Veach was happy to oblige in, especially given his winning past at Barber in 2014.
“I thought Barber was honestly going to be a lot harder than it was,” said Veach.
“Luckily we have a lot of endurance so that helped out a ton and it was a pat on the back from a lot of experienced drivers because you’ve got guys like Hinch and everybody else who talk about how difficult Barber is as a racing driver and I think everybody kind of questioned me a little less after Barber. We’ve still got a lot of strength to gain to be as strong as we want to be but we’re off to a good start I think.”
But what was the toughest part about doing Barber?
“Barber was the first time I’ve driven a race car since October of last year,” said Veach. “I had no testing over the winter, literally I tested an Indy Lights car at Gateway for Belardi just to help them with their rookie driver Aaron Telitz to make sure the car was good for them.”
“Not pain, but fatigue I felt was just from being out of the race car. You wouldn’t have that if you tested all winter like most of these guys and the race car it’s one thing you only get fit by doing it. You can get strong and train outside the car which helps, but there’s a certain type of fit that you only get from just by experiencing that over and over and I think Barber was a great warmup for me before Indy.”