In my last blog “For Love Of The Oval” where I previewed the “Night Before the 500” race, I talked about my love of oval racing and how the Star Mazda car was a little different compared to the USF2000 car I drove last year. At the end, I said, “We all are going to be working extremely hard toward a 1-2 finish.” That's nearly what we did, coming up a little short.
After leading a practice session, and qualifying third, at the end of the 100 laps, my teammate Sage Karam finished P2 and I finished P3. It wasn't the 1-2 that we wanted but being that close has just made us work that much harder to try to get it done in Iowa for our next race this weekend. Iowa will be the last oval of the 2012 season and I'm very thankful for all of the effort from the Andretti Autosport guys for putting together such a great car this far!
Following my race at Indy, a great Indianapolis 500 and Memorial Day weekend overall, I was back to normal teenager mode at home working on my K12 Online school work. I was working to finish up the last week of my junior year and I can't believe I am about to start my senior year of high school! I want to thank all of my teachers and everyone at K12 for allowing my school schedule to fit in perfectly with my busy racing schedule, and let me get a education better than any public school could give me while pursuing my dream. So many other kids are also using K12 to pursue their dream, too – whether that's on American Idol or even another sport like mine – and for that I'm very thankful.
I'm really excited about going back to Iowa, maybe even more than I was about racing at Lucas Oil Speedway in Indy, because I now have a feel on how far I can push the Star Mazda car until it bites back. The last time I turned laps around this 7/8-mile oval was back in 2010 for the fourth race of the USF2000 season, and I thought even then it was the best race on the schedule.
Looking through the notes for the weekend, because of all of the banking that is available at Iowa, the car is pretty much all the way trimmed out to the point we could just take the wings off of the car and the driver would still be flat. Iowa is going to be like a superspeedway for the Star Mazda series cars, and all of the drivers I've talked to, including myself, are excited about that fact. The concerning thing about it is, how many drivers are going to be smart about it, but after the LOR race, I have a lot of confidence and trust around the guys (and girl) we are racing with.
Just looking at the two tracks, Lucas Oil Raceway and Iowa Speedway, you can tell that they are pretty different, and when it comes to setting up a car, and driving each one of them, it's a completely different game as well. In terms of car setup, at LOR straightaway speed is sacrificed for cornering speed. The straights are so short, so drag doesn't play too big of a problem – allowing us to add in a lot of downforce to help the cars get in and through the corner as fast as possible with the little amount of banking LOR has.
When you look at Iowa, where we are flat the whole way around and have a lot more banking, the straightaway's become just as important as the corners. So, we push down to the last holes on the wings, to be fully trimmed out. At a place like LOR, we were always fighting to balance the car with as much grip as possible, but from what it sounds like with Iowa, your still fighting to balance the car but trying to keep it as free as possible to reduce drag.
Now when it comes down to driving, the whole oval idea of driving style is the same, be smooth on everything your doing in the car, but LOR is going to be a lot more forgiving than Iowa. At the “Night Before the 500” race, we were turning in hard, trying to upset the rear of the car to get it to rotate in the center of the corner once the tires started to wear, and sometimes even I was using the brakes in the middle of all of this. You could get away with this because the car had a lot of downforce put in it and the corners were short and quick, the car loaded and unloaded fast so any mistake was easy to recover from, but at Iowa, we won't have this option. The car will have the bare minimum of downforce, making it lighter than it was at LOR and since you're in the corners so long at Iowa, any mistake can mean a big hit. So, it's going to be extremely important to be as smooth as possible to allow the car to load up in the corner nice and slowly and take a solid set to hold throughout the corner and a full race length.
Another big factor about Iowa will be the draft and dirty air, with the low amount of downforce the cars will have, when it comes to racing with someone, the driver will have to make sure he or she is doing the best they can to pop a wing out to clean air for some help – there is definitely going to be a lot of side-by-side racing. It's going to be great to watch!
Iowa is one of those races this year I'm particularly excited about – after the great finish for both Andretti Autosport cars at Lucas Oil Raceway, it's giving us the momentum we need to be fast at Iowa! Sage and I are working together better than ever right now, and we are both striving toward a 1-2 but… lets face it, we both want to be the “1” in that situation if we get that lucky.
The Star Mazda Championship is extremely strong this year and every single race, every driver in the top 10 has the talent and skill to win the race. My goal for the weekend is to work extremely hard to get the K12 team and me our very first Star Mazda and oval win but, I know there's 20 other drivers that might have something to say about that…
If you would like to talk with me more about Iowa, this Wednesday I will be doing a Twitter chat with the track (6/20/12; 12:30 p.m. ET). Tweet me (@ZachVeach) or the track (@IowaSpeedway) to ask a question and use #AskVeach.
Star Mazda Championship driver Zach Veach drives the Andretti Autosport No. 77 K12/Mazda. For more on Zach, go to www.zachveach.com.