Walking into Andretti Autosport earlier this week for the 2013 livery unveils was a bit nerve wracking to think about. This is the fourth time we've done one of these announcements and to think I'm about to start my fourth season with the team is mindboggling to me.
Ironically, Andretti Autosport was pretty much the first race shop I ever walked into, when I first visited the team in 2010. This was also the first time I “nervously” met Michael Andretti and, fortunately, that was the start of a long-term relationship for me. I was only 15 at the time, with very little open-wheel racing experience, and Michael took a chance on me, giving me a shot. Looking to see where I am today, I know none of this would have been possible without the help from Michael and the team. I will forever be grateful for what everyone at Andretti Autosport has done for me, and my career.
Flash-forward to now and this Sunday, Dec. 9, I'll FINALLY turn 18. To say I've experienced a lifetime already would be a bit of an understatement. I've learned so many things in the past three years, some the easy way, and some…let's say the hard way. Both on track and off, I've learned how to improve myself, and get better.
There is always one quote I think about when it comes to learning, by Confucius: “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
When it comes to driving a racecar, you learn a lot by experience, and some cases of that are a little more forgiving than others. Each time I take a car on the track, it is my goal to learn something new, and like Mario Andretti told me, “You never stop learning.”
With all that has been going on, I feel like every day of these past few weeks has been my birthday. This is definitely a time in my life that I'll always remember, especially when we learned that K12 would continue supporting me with the move up to Firestone Indy lights for 2013. Being associated with K12 is a huge honor for me. If it wasn't for them, and the ability they give me to get my education on the road through online courses and classes, I could have never came close to where I am today. The same is for all of the other great students at K12 as well; with online education the possibilities and dreams are limitless!
When I arrived at the shop this past week for the car unveils, I felt like I was having déjà vu – thinking back to how blown away I was that first time I walked in there. How weird I felt being there and how out of place I must have looked and thinking in my mind, how could I have possibly gotten here. Now when I come to the race shop, it's so natural and I feel right at home surrounded by all of my friends. But even with being comfortable at the shop, I still do get that feeling of being on special grounds, a place that has my upmost respect and admiration, that exact feeling I always get when I go through the tunnel at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. They are both just very unique places to me and places that hold sacred meaning, where dreams come true.
Speaking of dreams, it was also especially moving to be recognized by the fans as the Most Popular Driver in Star Mazda. I've always tried to just be open and accessible to the fans. I remember being much younger and going to the races and idolizing the drivers and I've wanted to keep that feeling as I move up to never forget where I came from and to always make time for the fans. I was a fan before I was ever a driver. To think Andretti Autosport nearly swept the Most Popular Driver fan voting [with Zach, Indy Lights' Sebastian Saavedra and James Hinchcliffe, RIGHT] is incredible. It just goes to show that Andretti Autosport is not only focused on putting the best cars and drivers on the track but also selecting the best drivers off of it too. Hinch and Saavedra are just really great people and it's an honor to share this award with them. I think the grouping is really taking the fan friendly aspect to the next level and I'm honored to be apart of that.
After I turn 18 on Sunday, I'll get another couple days in the Indy Lights car in Texas. I haven't had that many days in the Lights car just yet but I'm definitely getting more comfortable with it. Now, we're moving into more of the minor details to find that last tenth or so. The braking of the car and new tire runs, where seat time in the car comes into play. I'm very fortunate to be working with Carlos Munoz – he's a fast guy and is teaching me a lot. I'm looking forward to developing more in the car, and as a teammate this off-season to be the best we can be come March.
I also have to say I hope the Star Mazda Championship is able to continue as part of the Mazda Road to Indy, as it was an important steppingstone for me as I move up to Indy Lights, just as USF2000 helped my move to Star Mazda.
This off-season has been such a rollercoaster for me and I'm SO thankful to Andretti Autotsport, to K12 and all my partners for supporting me and most importantly to my family, friends and fans who have always been by my side.
I'm beyond excited for the 2013 season to start and I hope you'll be along for the ride! And don't forget, I'll now be driving the No 12 now, which is for all of the great staff, teachers, and students at K12, 2013 is for you!
Zach Veach will drive the Andretti Autosport No. 12 K12 machine in the 2013 Firestone Indy Lights Championship. To learn more about Zach, go to www.zachveach.com.