Welcome to my personal journal! It's an honor for me to be able to share my experiences with you and give you a little bit of insight on the day-to-day life of a young racer. I'm looking forward to an exciting 2011 season. But before I begin current entries, why don't I start with a bit of background information? Sometimes, to understand where I am and where I'm going, you need to understand where I've been. So let me tell you how I got into the “Mazda Road to Indy” developmental ladder system.
It wasn't until I was 12 that I finally got my shot to start racing. Now, you are probably wondering why I didn't start racing at age four or five like most other drivers. Well, my dad was a national truck and tractor pulling champion and thought I was too young to be racing. But he finally gave in and the timing couldn't have been better.
I started racing go-karts at Circleville Raceway Park, which is about 40 miles from my house in Stockdale, Ohio. I started out in the Yamaha Junior Sportsmen class, and had help from someone you may be familiar with: Dave Fisher, father of former IZOD IndyCar Series driver Sarah Fisher.
My dad made the mistake of telling me that he'd take me to the racetrack anytime I wanted to go practice. Well, anytime turned into every night and, within the first three months, I had turned over 2,500 laps and was 100 percent sure this was something I wanted to do the rest of my life. That year, I won the championship, “Rookie of the Year” honors, and grabbed the track record that I still hold today. (The kids seem to get faster every year, so I'm shocked my time still stands.)
I then moved onto running JICA (Junior Intercontinental A) in the Florida Winter Tour Series and the Stars of Karting Championship. Like many IndyCar and NASCAR drivers, I still run shifter karts to stay in shape and to have something to play around with when we have weekends off and especially during the off-season.
After karts, I made the leap to an open-wheel racecar with the dream of one day attempting to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. I was extremely excited to see what it was like to be in a real racecar. I had 30 test days preparing for the Formula BMW series and 22 test days in the Atlantic Championship car before both series were canceled because of the economy. So, over the course of two years, I had trained for two different racing series and was then stuck with no row to hoe – talk about a humbling experience!
We didn't really know where to go next; but I was determined to stick on a path to eventually be an IndyCar driver. We pondered a number of other series including the SCCA Atlantic Series and IndyCar's new USF2000 National Championship Series. We weren't idle for long, either. Just three days after Atlantics closed its doors, we received a call from J-F Thormann with Andretti Autosport to see if I'd be interested in driving for Michael's team. ARE YOU NUTS? I was DEFINITELY interested. Who wouldn't be?
We went over to Indy and toured the race shop and talked about me teaming with Sage Karam in the USF2000 National Championship Series for the 2010 season. Michael Andretti was my racing hero growing up and I can't even begin to describe what an honor it is to be a part of his first-class team. When I met him for the first time, I was, quite frankly, speechless.
The 2010 season was a steep learning curve for me. We struggled until the last couple races at Road America and Road Atlanta. I was so used to driving a high-downforce car with the Atlantic car; it really hurt my driving style for the low-horsepower and low-downforce F2000 car. With the Atlantic car, the idea is to be as smooth as possible and really use the curbs to your advantage. The F2000 car, on the other hand, is exactly the opposite; it likes to be thrown around and hitting the curbs extremely upsets the balance of the racecar.
In addition to Michael and all the crew on the team, I really have to hand it to my teammate Sage from this past season for really taking me under his wing and helping me get up to speed (pun intended!). Despite missing the first two races of the season, I placed fifth in the point standings, put in nine top-five finishes and four podium results. And, Sage and I were both nominated as Sports Illustrated's “Sports Kid of the Year.”
We're starting off 2011 with the Cooper Tires Winterfest, a two-event, five-race USF2000 winter series, taking place at both Sebring International Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway in sunny Florida. These few events will be a great way to dust off the cobwebs and help me get ready to go for the championship in 2011!
Expect my entries at the first of every month and if there is something specific you'd like to know, I'll try and include it. Just email me at questions@ZachVeach.com. Thank you for reading and Happy New Year!
USF2000 National Championship driver Zach Veach drives the Andretti Autosport No. 7 Zakosi Data Backup/Mazda in USF2000. For more on Zach, go to www.zachveach.com.