Bad luck seems to follow me; anyone have any ideas to get rid of it all? I have never felt so close to success in my life, but it just seems I'm missing that last little piece of the puzzle that ties everything together.
A quick recap of Edmonton: the weekend was like a rollercoaster ride. We were P8, and P6 in the two practice sessions on Friday, but we decided to make a couple of changes going into qualifying to free the car up some to help us through the medium to high-speed corners throughout the track, mainly where all of the time is on a track. (watch video below for Star Mazda in-car from Edmonton).
We started our 30-minute qualifying session Saturday morning and were able to get 15 minutes into the session before the first yellow flag came out. At this point I was P5 and debating if I wanted to try another set of tires in the short amount of time we had left. The only downside about going to a second set of tires in qualifying is, we only get three sets per weekend. So you use one in practice, usually one in qualifying, and the last set in the first race. For the second race, we use the tires we qualified on, which makes it really important to get a good qualifying run, so you can start a race on a brand-new set. I decided to go with a second set and try my luck with six minutes to go. On my in-lap, I put in the second faster lap, only 00.005 of a second off of my teammate Sage Karam. It was an awesome feeling to give the team their first all Andretti Autosport front row in Star Mazda.
Our first race was filled with rain; we decided to start on slicks and that was the right call for the first part of the race. Sage and I were running 1-2 as the rain started to pick up. With slicks on, this made the car 10 times harder to drive because at this point, there was starting to be standing water on the track. If you hit the brakes too hard you automatically locked up. If you barely got on the throttle, automatic wheelspin. It took a lot of patience to just get around the track. The rain increased even more, so we decided to pit for rain tires. When we went back to green I was in 11th and was only able to get to eighth before the yellow came back out due to the mayhem on the start. On a bright side, we qualified third for race two the next day.
On race two, I lost a position on the start and was running fourth for most of the race but within a second of third. I was always faster through the infield and would be able to get right on his gear box, but could never get a good run like on the straightaway to be able to pass. For most of the race, I had the fastest lap, but with a few minutes to go, the yellow came out and bunched us all back up.
When we went back to green, I knew I only had a couple laps left and I had to try to make something happen. As we got to Turn 9, I was closer to the car in front of me than ever before. I tried to go a little high to get enough air on my wings to be able to get underneath him on the exit, but I hit a bump I never felt before that snapped the car loose and the left rear made contact with the wall, ending my race again. I just want to say sorry to my K12 guys – each weekend we're getting better. We were so close, I want to finish well as a way to say thank you to them for all of their hard work through out the weekend – we'll get there!
Next up is our last two races in Canada for the year at Trois-Rivieres. After all of the stories I have heard from the other drivers and team members, it's definitely one I'm looking forward to racing at. Everyone says there are a lot of great things to see and that the city is pretty nice, too. There's a lot of parades, fireworks, and the streets are pretty much packed, it's like a IndyCar/Formula 1 weekend for everyone up there!
The weekend is going to be pretty fast paced compared to our normal schedules. We only have one 45-minute practice session on Friday that is immediately followed by our qualifying session for the first race. So the practice session is going to be 100% about learning the track, especially with a lot of the drivers in the field already knowing their way around. I've been working a lot with Sage, going over video, and looking at data, so that will be a big help, I just need to get a feel for it. The track is a lot tighter than the other street courses we race, so it should be a lot of close racing. “Three Rivers” is like our Monaco.
The team and I will be working extremely hard to get a good result in, and after Toronto and Edmonton, I know its possible for us to run up front! Last but not least I want to thanks to everyone of my guys for all the hard work and of course to my sponsors K12, The Young Marines, Replay XD, ADS IT Solutions, Arai, Zakosi, Oakley, and OMP.
Star Mazda Championship driver Zach Veach drives the Andretti Autosport No. 77 K12/Mazda. For more on Zach, go to www.zachveach.com.