Mazda Road to Indy driver Zach Veach will be blogging for RACER.com throughout the Star Mazda Championship season.
They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger; well, I'm starting to feel like the Hulk!
As I wrote in my last blog, racing on the streets of St. Petersburg for our season opener didn't go how we wanted with a throttle sticking problem and going the wrong way with our setup, but we looked forward to Barber to turn our season around – at least that was what we all were hoping for!
Our schedule for this past weekend was a little different from a regular one, on Thursday we had two 30-minute practice sessions, and then we went straight into qualifying and our first race on Friday. This gave us Saturday off and came back to finish up Race 2 on Sunday before the IndyCar race.
The first 30-minute practice went pretty well for us; we figured out the balance of the car and made the best changes we could with the amount of time we had to worth with. I was pretty happy with the car, but one of the things you have to take into consideration about Barber is, that it is a highly abrasive track, meaning it wears the tires faster than normal. If you start a race out with a little bit of understeer or oversteer and don't change how you're driving or make the right adjustments with the anti-roll bar to save the tires, by the end of the race, the car will have five out five understeer or oversteer – which makes your job kind of hard.
In the second practice session, we started with a set of stickers like pretty much the whole field to simulate a qualifying run, but I didn't even get two whole laps in. They told me to push on my first four laps and I did! I had the third-fastest out lap, but as I made it to Turn 13 on my first hot lap, I carried in 18mph more then usual (they told me to push right?). The worst part is I almost made it stick (of course, all drivers say that).
The thing that happened was, as I got to the exit of the corner with the extra speed and the car pushed up and I dropped the left-side tires off the curb. Where all of the sports cars did the same that day, there was a mound of dirt built up at the end of the curbing and it caught the splitter, tucking it under the car and ending the session for us.
Friday we had what Sage Karam and I were wanting since St. Pete – rain ! It started around noon and by the time qualifying came around it was flooding. They postponed our session by an hour and took 10 minutes off of it, but once we got out there, it was worth the wait! We ended up P7.
Looking back, I learned that on a highly abrasive track even in the wet, you have to get your time as soon as possible, not try to work your way up to it because by that time your tires are pretty worn, and you couldn't do the time if you wanted to. I was excited to head to the race, though – especially trying to do a standing start in the rain but, soon after we got off the track, they made the decision to move the first race to Sunday morning and the second race after the IndyCar race.
We had the next day off, so Sage and I made a trip to this really cool hobby shop called “The Model Box” and got some of the parts we needed for our R/C helicopters, then headed back to the track to fly and hang out with the guys. We tend to be kids sometimes—we are only 17…
For Sunday, we did something to the car to help save the rear tires. We started P7 from our wet qualifying run and on the first lap, I managed to make up a spot but I was battling a lot of understeer coming off of Turn 2 getting onto the straightaway, and that caused me to get overtaken going into Turn 5.
By about lap 7, I was fighting with another car and got to the inside of him going into Turn 8 but the car turned in on me and I had to jump the apex curbing to not make contact and that again bent the splitter on the bottom of the car, causing me to spin and finish 15th. I had the 13th-fastest time, which meant I had to start 13th for the second race. I need a lot more front grip from the middle to the exit of the corner, so we made the right changes and waited for our second chance.
In the second race I had a pretty good start and, by halfway, I was working on ninth place. He wore his tires pretty quick and I could see the car was a handful for him, I spent the next five laps doing what I could to get a pass in but every time I would get beside the guy, he would start turning into me pushing me off. Finally I got a good run off of Two and got beside him going into Turn 5. He protected the inside but I managed to stay alongside him on the outside but he purposely tried to drive me off of the track again and ended up climbing my left-front tire with his right rear and put himself out of the race. For me, it took my front wing off but with two laps to go I managed to finish 11th. It wasn't the result we wanted but when someone does that to you, you don't really have much of a choice.
Even though the first four races didn't go as planned, I'm really looking forward to the next two – it's finally time for the ovals! It's not about how you start something, but how you end it – we still have a lot of races left in the season. I would like to thank my team, Andretti Autosport for working so hard these past two weeks and all of my partners: Zakosi Data Backup, ADS IT solutions, The Young Marines, and Replay XD. I would also like to say a big thank you to Arai and OMP for giving me the best gear for this season!
Last but not least, I got a tweet from RACER and DiGiorno Pizza when I asked my Twitter followers if there was anything in particular they wanted to hear about in my next blog. They asked:
@ZachVeach Quite an interesting one: compare + contrast pre-race and post-race diets of racing drivers. And does it involve @DiGiornoPizza ?
First of all, I have to say yes, it does involve DiGiorno Pizza! A lot of it! When I'm on the road, in the hotel room and we don't feel like going out and especially when I'm home, DiGiorno and toast is about the only thing I know how to cook…
When It comes to comparing what I eat pre-race and post-race, they are a little different. Pre-race I try to eat as healthy as a 17-year-old can: pasta, salad, no soda, just water and Gatorade, But post-race, I really eat just about anything, and drink Dr. Pepper or RC Cherry!
Thanks for reading,
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.