It feels like the last race of the 2011 Star Mazda season at Laguna Seca in October was only a couple days ago. With the off-season leading to my rookie year in the 2012 Star Mazda Championship, it gave me a boost to work my hardest throughout October till now, and seeing all of the competition this year, I'm happy I did!
Looking back at our first two races of 2012 at St. Petersburg, I know there's only so much you can learn in testing, the other important part of racing, is racing; who would of thought?!
Like anything, you always want to start off on the right foot, that's the attitude the team and I went into St. Pete with. With it being my first time in a bigger car on a street course, I had a lot of learning to do in two 30-minute practice sessions but it was nice to have a teammate like Sage Karam, who raced there last year. The first two practice sessions went pretty well, we kept improving the car and working on using all of the track and not going too deep into the corner and over slowing the car.
Once we got out to qualifying, we made our way on to the track and just tried to find a nice gap with some open track – having 23 cars in the field all going out at different times made this a little difficult, but it's the same for everyone. After we got about five laps on our tires a red flag came out, and the team was telling me I was P6 at that point. A lot of drivers – including myself – felt that we could get more out of the car, so we threw another new set of tires on and waited for the track to go green again.
With about 10 minutes to go the track went green again and we all did the same process of finding a gap and the limit of the car. I got bumped back to P10 with three minutes to go, and the team was telling me five tenths would get me to P1. Coming to the checkered flag, I managed to find an extra tenth to put me at P8 for the first race. I couldn't believe how close the whole field was.
As we got ready for the first race, we made a little change to help the car in traffic. With it being the first race of the year, I just wanted to be smart and try for a top-five finish.
The first lap didn't go according to that plan. I know this is the oldest excuse in the book but I have data to back it up. When we went green and made it through Turn 1, 2, 3, and heading toward Turn 4, I decided to pop low and stay on the inside to protect my position – but as I got off of the throttle to brake and blip for the downshifts, my last blip on the throttle stuck at about 30% because the connector on the cable was binding up and I couldn't stop the car in time, causing me to lose the front wing.
The guys did an awesome job getting another one on and sending me back out but through out the rest of the race, I still had throttle-sticking problems under braking and corner entry, so it defiantly kept me on my toes until the checkered where I finished 17th. I had the ninth fastest lap, so that set where I would start the second race.
With throttle problem fixed, we thought the track would be more loose than the first race since it was in the morning. So, we changed the car to help settle the rear down, but at the start, the track went to a lot of understeer. I adjusted my front anti-roll bar to help me gain a little more front grip but we couldn't get off of the corners and, with only five green laps with two yellows, we ended up P11.
It really wasn't the weekend the team and I had hoped for but luckily we have 19 races this year, and now were running at Barber. We are going to do our best to be strong from here on out and continue to fight in the championship.
I asked some of my fans on Facebook and Twitter if there was anything in particular they wanted to know, and one of the questions I got was: “Have you ever thought about going to GP3 series? What about going F1 in the future?”
I have actually looked into the route and a few teams have contacted me about the GP3 series. To be honest, I would love to go over for a test or maybe a race to just get my feet wet but right now, my main focus is here in the states with Andretti Autosport, Star Mazda and IndyCar.
As for F1, if I had the opportunity I would love to take it, but I dreamed of racing in the Indianapolis 500 before turning laps at Monaco.
From my good friend and teammate Sage Karam: “Tell'm all about @SageKaram88 haha!!”
Haha. So yeah, if you don't know who Sage Karam is, check him out! (That's him with Zach, above -Ed.) He's an awesome kid to be around, a great teammate, and one of the fiercest guys I've ever raced with! He started racing a few years before I did, so he has taught me a lot the past two years. We are always turning anything into a competition and that pushes both of us to work that much harder. I'm really looking forward to seeing what we can do this year!
I hope to see some of you at the track this weekend, and if you see me don't hesitate to walk up and talk, I always love to hear peoples' stories!
Star Mazda Championship driver Zach Veach drives the Andretti Autosport No. 77 Zakosi Data Backup/Mazda. For more on Zach, go to www.zachveach.com.