By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
Zach Veach is a very seasoned driver in the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires. Since starting in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda, Veach has 183 starts across all three steps on the MRTI. His last season in Indy Lights in 2016 netted him three wins (and nearly a fourth at the opening race of the season) but so far he hasn’t secured an IndyCar ride for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season. How has Veach kept himself busy in the offseason?
“It’s been so far really long with a lot of rock climbing and not too much driving yet, so I’ve been able to go out on some journeys after the Sonoma Grand Prix,” Veach told Motorsports Tribune.
“Dalton Kellett and I went out to Yosemite Valley and climbed Half Dome so that was a good little break, but recently every day has been spent trying to get some things together for IndyCar. There’s only a couple of seats left [that] everyone’s fighting for, fortunately it’s always going to come down to the financial side of things, but I think we have a good opportunity to have a chance to get into a seat as long as we get the funding that we need.”
During the 2016 season, Veach was one of a handful of Indy Lights drivers that got the opportunity to test an IndyCar, testing with Ed Carpenter Racing, which would be a front-runner for Veach if a seat opened up.
“I’m keeping my options open, I had a great time testing with ECR, I love the relationship I have with Ed Carpenter and Tim Broyles (Team Manager for ECR), they have a great organization. If I had an opportunity to drive for them on the road courses it’s something I’d love to jump at but the thing is I’m not focused on trying to have a full time ride.”
Having a full time ride would require having a much larger sponsorship package than having enough for a few races, so Veach has smaller expectations.
“I just need the experience, even if it comes down to the end of the year and it’s only a two or three race deal, that’s still something I can take away and I can learn from because even since the test itself, I’ve got so much in my mind that I’m thinking about every day so much that I want to improve on that I just need the seat time, and being a young guy I think sometimes it might be better to have a partial season at first and then a full time shot because then you have time to really take everything in because when you’re racing guys like Dixon who are in their late 30s, they’ve been racing Indy cars since you’ve been racing go karts so it really puts it in perspective for you.”
Let’s say that Veach doesn’t get a shot in IndyCar. Would Veach step away from IndyCar or open wheel?
“I don’t want to step away from anything. Definitely Indy Lights is still on my radar, I have a great relationship with Belardi Auto Racing, if I would come back it would be something that I would want to do with them because just everything that we did last year, especially with Felix Rosenqvist and myself getting the car in the direction that we did, I think Belardi is going to be the team to beat in 2017.”
“I don’t want to sound too confident but I think they will be one of the championship contenders next season and if I can’t be in IndyCar I want to be in an Indy Lights car and if I can’t be in IndyCar full time maybe I can go back and forth depending on how things go.”