By Zach Veach, Driver Columnist
Editor’s note: Zach Veach, driver of the No. 26 Group One Thousand One Honda for Andretti Autosport in the Verizon IndyCar Series, shares the journey of his rookie campaign with Motorsports Tribune for the 2018 season.
My first blog as a full-time IndyCar driver… little things like this keep bringing an uncontrollable smile onto my face. Being an IndyCar driver is something I’ve dreamt about for as long as I can remember and now that it’s a reality, I have to pinch myself every day.
The 2018 season has been a great year for rookies like myself to step in and try to make our mark with the new generation car. The biggest help, being it has a lot less downforce than the previous car and because of that, similar characteristics to an Indy Lights chassis. The rear of the car is constantly moving around on you, especially on the entry phase of the corner. Each lap that you’re pushing at 110 percent, it’s all a question of how much you can get away with before the car is completely gone from underneath you. It makes things thrilling for us, and of course for the fans.
As a rookie walking in, the first thing that you come face-to-face with is the depth and level of competition in the Verizon IndyCar Series. You’re going from the Indy Lights field where 7 out of 10 or 12 cars are out front and dominating the series to a field of two dozen cars. When you add different strategies on top of that, every car in the field has a fighting chance for a win on any weekend.
The bar is constantly moving upwards in IndyCar. A time good enough for P1 30 minutes into a session can easily be 20th-quick at the sessions end. This has been my favorite thing about IndyCar so far, you really have to rise up to that next level in everything you’re doing. Exploring where the grip is and examining every detail of the setup. As my engineer says, “You’re basically solving a Rubik’s Cube at 200 miles-per-hour.”
For us, 2018 so far has been going according to plan. This whole year is just focused on gaining experience and learning as much as I can, completing every lap.
One of the biggest obstacles for myself has been getting back into the swing of things after sitting on the sidelines for much of 2017. Driving is a lot like riding a bike in a sense, it comes back to you quickly but like with anything you are away from, all the fine details dull just a little. The only way to correct that, is time back in one of the best offices in the world and appropriate goals to go with it.
Our main goals for St. Pete were to advance to the top 12 in qualifying and just make it through the first race to get the ball rolling. Overall, we just came up a little short on both sides, missing the top 12 by 0.04 (of a second) on Saturday and a little bit of a messy race on my part Sunday, coming home 16th.
Although the results weren’t something we were too proud about, I do feel really good about what we have going forward. Each session out, we’ve been one step closer. With the teammates I have to learn from, every session has been an improvement and a steady progression for us. That’s the way Indy Lights was for me, each race was a steady climb upwards until we were fighting for poles and leading our way to race wins. I expect this to be the same way.
With St. Pete behind us and two strong tests at Barber and the Indy road course, I’m heading into Phoenix with a level of confidence I haven’t had with this car yet. I’m really excited to get out there and tackle a new set of goals on the oval and under the lights.
Thank you all for reading along and I’d especially like to thank Group One Thousand One and Andretti Autosport for allowing me the opportunity to have something to share with you.