Unlike most stick-and-ball sports, auto racing is a sport that takes more than just talent alone. On top of having to be a skilled and a talented driver, you have to be able to market yourself in order to get the funding needed to compete each season. The ugly side of racing is that some of the best drivers might not be able to race due to a lack of funding. But with the right mix of branding and positioning yourself to be in the right place at the right time, business in the fast lane may not be too far different from business in the boardroom.
Just like successful businesses across the country have boards of advisors, I too have a team around me helping me each racing season. Along with my team at Andretti Autosport including Michael Andretti and COO J-F Thormann, I have my manager at BRANDed Management, and my dad to help me as I move up in the open-wheel ladder.
While I'm still very young to be doing what I'm doing, my parents instilled in me that you must turn over many stones before an opportunity will present itself. In addition to going to school, training and, of course, racing, I am working every day to create opportunities that continually provide value for my sponsors and investors.
Last year I was offered an opportunity to write a book with the 99 Series and actually, my book comes out this week. It was on my bucket list to be an author one day and to be honest; I really didn't think it would come this early. Michael was kind enough to write the foreword and some of my teammates like Danica Patrick (with Zach, BELOW) and Ryan Hunter-Reay also wrote sections of the book. I also have a section in there written by Tony Kanaan and other kids my age like AOL artist Olivia Bouler and the late Alex Scott, founder of Alex's Lemonade Stand who raised $1m to fight cancer, including her own. The book is called 99 THINGS TEENS WISH THEY KNEW BEFORE TURNING 16 and is now available through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
In addition to writing a book, there are a lot of other things I'd love to get involved with down the road if I'm able. As you all know I'm a big fan of go-kart racing, so to own a go-kart track or a similar facility or even a gaming center would be really cool! I'm a big fan of video gaming and iRacing and think there is great opportunity in this space for me. It seems some TV people think so as well; I've got a handy-cam with me today capturing some of my daily routines for some potential broadcast opportunities down the road.
Like most other athletes, I think it's really important to make time for charity. Other racecar drivers who have come before me have set a great example and I'm honored to be involved with FocusDriven. To help support FocusDriven and its mission, I created a phone application to fight texting behind the wheel. I created urTXT so when you are driving, it will automatically send a response back to the sender so you don't have to worry about responding while you are focused on driving – and it's a free download!
While creating the phone app, I learned this is something I really enjoy doing in my free time. Having said that, I created a company, ZaAPP, for building these types of applications. I just secured my first client and I'm creating a business application for them but I think it would be really cool to have the opportunity to create one around racing especially for my team Andretti Autosport.
While I've given you a sampling of some ancillary things I'm working on outside of the cockpit, attending trade shows and sponsor events are also important for longevity in the motorsports arena. Trade shows like SEMA, CES, IMIS, PRI, and events the Sports Business Journal puts on, are great platforms for networking and meeting brand managers of products you'd like to begin working with. I've found that going up and introducing yourself has a better impact on people than through e-mail and phone calls. The main thing to focus on is when somebody invests in something; they expect it to help them out in return or to have ROI (return on investment.). And, as for SEMA, who doesn't want an excuse to visit Vegas!
One of the best things about my team, Andretti Autosport, is the commercial division. This year I was able to attend the Andretti Sponsor Summit for the first time, which was held in Dallas in the backyard of the corporate headquarters of the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group. I got to hear so many CEOs and CMOs speak and really benefit from understanding the sponsorship side of motorsports. Not only do sponsors receive ROI through a partnership in our world, but we are also able to facilitate B2B relationships with other sponsors on the team or other people we might know that could help grow their business.
My greatest fear in racing is not having the funding to continue on to the next level, which is why we are working so hard to provide value in our program. From meetings in boardrooms across the country to solicit sponsorship, to doing press and book tours to our rigorous training schedule, racecar drivers must be well-rounded to tackle the race of staying on track for corporate backing. I just hope all we are doing also inspires others to have the same commitment to achieving their dreams. After all, I'm just like any other hard-working kid trying to follow my dreams.
I appreciate you taking the time to read my post and please send me your feedback to: questions@ZachVeach.com.
Also, I'll be on The Today Show on NBC this Wednesday (3/2) or I'll see you at Sebring on March 17 for our season opener!
• USF2000 National Championship driver Zach Veach drives the Andretti Autosport No. 7 Zakosi Data Backup/Mazda. For more on Zach, go to www.zachveach.com.