Firestone Indy Lights driver Zach Veach is coming off his best result of the Firestone Indy Lights season, recording a third-place finish at The Milwaukee Mile, which also included leading the most laps during the race. The Andretti Autosport driver is a rookie in Indy Lights this season and sits seventh in series points among the eight full-time drivers.
The 18-year-old Veach spent two seasons in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and spent 2012 in the Star Mazda Championship, now referred to as the Pro Mazda Championship. In 2013, he entered his fourth season with Andretti Autosport and is among a class of four rookie drivers competing for the Rookie of the Year award.
Before this weekend's race at Iowa Speedway, we caught up with our RACER columnist to answer some of our questions about jumping the start at Milwaukee, testing an IndyCar and Dreamworks Turbo movie, all before he gets back behind the wheel.
With your third-place result at Milwaukee, do you feel added pressure to get a win or a second-place finish at Iowa this weekend?
ZV: With our finish at Milwaukee, a lot of things were done right and I made a couple rookie mistakes as well, so of course I want to learn from those. There is no added pressure from the team to do well at Iowa, but I've put a lot of pressure on myself this week to work at all of the details to hopefully get K12 a second or even a win this weekend.
What really happened when you fell back to third at Milwaukee? Did you just overuse your tires?
ZV: Tires were the main issue for me. In the second leg of the race, we pushed a little too hard in the first half and then getting stuck behind lap traffic and having to work a little extra harder didn't help us ether. We started picking up a pretty bad vibration and my focus went from winning the race to bringing home a top three.
Sage Karam was quoted as saying you jumped the start at Milwaukee. What is your side of the story?
ZV: To be honest, I think with Sage saying that he's just defending himself for being asleep on the start. I put the throttle down as soon as I heard my spotter call the green and I saw the flag waving in front of me.
I think out of anyone this year, Sage and I have battled the most. With our backgrounds with each other, if there is anyone we're going to drive a little harder against it would be each other. We're the two youngest kids, the two Americans, the ex-teammates. We really have a strong history of why we want to out perform each other, but with that said, he's probably who I have the most respect for in Indy Lights and who I get the most enjoyment out of running side by side with.
Your best results have come on ovals this season, so after Iowa, will you be most looking forward to Fontana?
ZV: I think things are really just starting to come together for me at this stage of the season, progressing as a rookie driver and, to be quite honest, I'm actually looking forward to Toronto a little more than the ovals coming up. We had a breakthrough weekend at Long Beach, actually having a shot for the pole in qualifying and ending up third, and then we just had some bad luck getting taken out on the start. I feel like we're going to be just as strong on the road and street courses as we are on the ovals the rest of the season. If not, I will keep working as hard as I can to make that happen.
You just graduated from high school – what are you doing with your extra time?
ZV: I'm using all of my extra time to be more dedicated to racing right now. It has allowed me to get a more open schedule for training and more time for me to go over notes and data at home with my engineer and I've been spending some time mountain biking as well.
What sort of mentors have the Andretti Autosport IndyCar drivers been to you this season?
ZV: It's hard for me to say one has helped me more than the others because they have all been a huge help to me, especially being in Indy Lights this year since it's more familiar to them. In total, though, I would have to say Michael [Andretti] has helped me the most throughout my career and continues to do so. After every session at Milwaukee, he was at our timing stand watching, and gave me some little things I can try for the next run. That means a lot.
How much has your teammate Carlos Munoz helped in your progression throughout the season?
ZV: Carlos has been a huge help to me this year, dating all the way back to our first test together at Sebring. He's a really fast guy and I've been very thankful to be working with him, because he wanted to help me from the beginning. Every session I'm learning on how to be a little quicker from his video and data and each weekend we've seemed to be getting closer and closer.
Will we see you testing an IndyCar toward the end of the season or during the off-season in preparation for a potential Indy 500 effort in 2014?
ZV: It's hard to say right now, I'm just focusing on these next Indy Lights races, but hey, anything is possible!
Do you see a breakout star in USF2000 or Star Mazda who will most likely join Indy Lights next season?
ZV: I'd really encourage anyone in USF2000 to make the jump to Pro Mazda before Indy Lights, just because you can learn so much from both series that will help you in FIL. I've been watching the Pro Mazda races and I think the field has a lot of talent. One of the drivers I see moving up to Indy Lights next year would be Matthew Brabham and maybe we'll even be teammates.
You were at the "Turbo" movie screening in Indy. What did you think?
ZV: I loved it and so did my inner kid I still haven't outgrown. I really think everyone who gets to see the full movie will have the same reaction. It's a great story and movie, and I think it's great for our sport as well to help possibly attract more fans. At the end of the day, they just might be disappointed that there isn't a snail in the actual field.