February 5, 2014 — Audio and story by Jacob Seelman for Speed77 Radio and Race Chaser Online — Photo courtesy Zach Veach — STOCKDALE, OH — If you want an example of how to make a difference in the world both on and off the race track, look no further than Andretti Autosport driver Zach Veach.
In just four years, Veach has gone from go-karts to the cockpit of an open-wheel Indy Lights machine, handpicked by Michael Andretti for a coveted spot on one of the most successful American open-wheel teams, Andretti Autosport, beginning in 2010.
The talented 19-year-old from Stockdale, Ohio, has proven in a short period of time that he is one of the top young prospects in open wheel racing today, working his way through the U.S. F2000 championship and Star (now Pro) Mazda Series on the Mazda Road to Indy. Veach has recorded top ten points finishes in three of the four years he has competed on the Road to Indy, finishing fifth and fourth in U.S. F2000 in 2010 and 2011 and tenth in Star Mazda in 2012 before making the leap to Indy Lights competition in 2013. Veach also scored the U.S. F2000 Winterfest championship in 2011.
“We’ve really just moved right up the ladder, and it’s been a lot of fun,” Veach said in a recent interview with Race Chaser Online. “Working with Andretti Autosport the last several years, I’ve really found a place where just being a part of the team is as fun as what I actually get to do on the race track.”
Veach came into Indy Lights with high aspirations in 2013, his fourth season with the Andretti operation, but mechanical failures in the first three races derailed the team’s title hopes. Veach rebounded in the second half of the season to score a total of six top five and twelve top ten finishes, including a pole effort at the season finale in Fontana and a season best third-place finish at the Milwaukee Mile.
“We had some good runs in 2013, but our start really killed us in the championship hunt,” Veach said of his campaign. “I think down the stretch we had the speed to contend but we had too big of a hole to dig out of.”
“For 2014 we want to come out of the gate strong so we can roll right into the battle from Race One.”
In addition to his racing, Veach has done an exceptional amount of off-track community work as well. The Ohioan is using his youth and driving as a platform to expose fellow drivers to the dangers associated with distracted driving. Veach is the developer of urTXT, an Android application that aims to fight texting behind the wheel. The teen is also the national spokesperson for FocusDriven, an advocacy group for victims of motor vehicle crashes involving drivers using their cell phones.
Zach is also an advocate of anti-bullying causes throughout the country, after going through similar struggles himself while in high school. The 5’2 teen has fought on Capital Hill in Washington as part of the Public Health Association’s work to secure additional funding in schools for the combat and prevention of teen bullying.
“For me, it’s not just about what we do on track, but what I do off-track is just as important to me,” Veach expressed of his community work. “Especially the bullying side, because I went through it myself, that’s a really important cause to me and I want to help ensure that others don’t have to go through it. If we can all work together to help combat the issues, then we’re helping others that we may not even know.”
“Dreamers are what make things happen in the world, you gotta have dreamers and I was one of those kids and I’m so lucky to have been able to accomplish some of my dreams already, that for me it’s about helping other kids like me and giving others the best chance for them to accomplish their dreams without them feeling like they don’t have the right or the strength to.”
The Ohio native appears a normal teenager when spending time at home. Having recently graduated from high school last June, he can be found indulging in remote control racecars, spending time with family and friends, or training his Bernese Mountain Dog, Indy. However, Veach still maintains a rigid training schedule include running on a high-end racing simulator, cardio and strength training regimens.
In fact, Veach credits those factors with on-track improvement in his own right in 2013.
“At the start of the season, you know, the longer Indy Lights races took so much out of me, but I bulked up, got a little stronger, and it really helped my endurance during the races starting about mid-season. It’s not because I wasn’t in-shape, per se, bu I’m not a big guy, so it took more for me to get to the same point that everyone else did.”
For 2014, Veach will return to the Andretti Autosport stable as a sophomore driver and the lead driver of the two-car squad that this year will add rookie Matthew Brabham to the team.
Veach says he’s excited to take on the role of mentor for this year in addition to challenging for the season-long championship.
“You know, I’m excited for this year. Being nineteen now, it really feels like my opinion is heard a little more and it lets me take on some more responsibility with my own stuff, and with this being my fifth year with Andretti Autosport and obviously my second year in Lights, it lets me pass on a little bit of what I know to Matthew as well and I’m excited and glad to be able to do that.”
But you can guarantee he won’t pass on all of his tricks.
“We’re ready to go fight for this championship in 2014. I’m keeping a few cards under my sleeve and when it comes go time, then we’ll be ready to show everyone what we’ve got. I think you’re going to see a new Zach Veach this year, a new style, and a new drive, and I can’t wait to get it on track in March and make that happen.”
Listen in as we sat down with Zach for a full interview about his 2014 outlook, his charity and service work, and his tenure with Andretti Autosport over the past four years: