After having to sort out a lot of issues on the ovals this season in Firestone Indy Lights, I'm really looking forward to getting back on a street course – especially Toronto. At Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Iowa, we really struggled with a vibration that would start to come into play around the halfway point…continuing to the point at the end of the race. I couldn't read my dash and even see the track very clearly, this problem also resulted in a big loss of rear grip, so the second half of the race would become a real handful for us, especially at Iowa, being the worst I've had.
Luckily, at Pocono, we were able to fix this issue, but we had a whole different set of problems we had to work through during practice and even qualifying. In the morning I was really held back by a free car, and we ended up throwing a lot of things at the car in order to correct it. Then the rest of the weekend, we were fighting too much understeer.
Looking back, I think it just took a while for me to get my confidence back in the car after having more than a couple big saves the first session. On these superspeedways, in order to gain speed you have to try to get rid of as much tire scrub in the car as possible without losing the rear too much. I've always been a driver that prefers a pushing car to a loose car, so it took me a while to figure out where exactly I needed the car to be. That's one lesson that will stay with me from now on – I have to improve on finding the correct balance in the car and what the car needs to be successful at the course we are on. For the race, I think we had a car that was close to where it's supposed to be.
Starting sixth after having a very tight qualifying run, we ended up changing a lot in the car for the race – big things out of the norm like a little downforce. So on the start I didn't know exactly what to expect. Being a little cautious into Turn 1, we lost a spot and fell to seventh, but I could feel right away that the car was freer, and by the time we got to T3, I was comfortable; I really had no option not to be, plus the car felt fast.
Over the next seven or eight laps, I was able to go from seventh to fourth and pull away my own lead from the cars behind me. It was at this moment I realized the downfall of having eight cars on a 2.5-mile oval – I had no one to draft with to help catch the lead cars. After fighting to get to the front of the back pack, I had already lost the draft of second and third.
The next 30 laps of the 40-lap race were mainly just a practice run. I was able to really work on the car with the tools and put the balance where I found to be best. At the checkered we crossed the line in fourth, with the second-fastest lap of the race. All we needed was a yellow for our chance to fight for a podium. My guys worked extremely hard to give me a great car in the race and I feel we really could have been in the mix of second and third, but it wasn't in the cards for me. It was still a good overall points finish for us and I feel good about taking it into Toronto.
Finishing second last year in Toronto in a Pro Mazda, I felt like we took to the track pretty well and it still remains my favorite street course – next to Long Beach, of course. One of the reasons being that it's not a typical street course at all. Of course it has the bumpy and unforgiving characteristics of it, but it's all very flowing, unlike most of the stop-and-go courses that are nothing but a lot of sharp 90s packed into a track. Toronto is about trying to carry as much speed as possible throughout the corners while keeping your rhythm fast.
Another thing that really separates it from the others is the amount on concrete patches at the apex of the corners. This really throws a whole different task at reading the car correctly and knowing the difference between having to drive it different and needing to change the car for it. In the Pro Mazda, one of the things to watch for was not getting too powerful too early and getting wheel spin over the patches. I'm excited to see what the challenge is going to be having another 200hp to play with in the Indy Lights car.
I'm going to be working as hard as I can to have another good weekend for the K12 crew and with my engineer being from around the Toronto area, we are both going to be striving toward a win.
Firestone Indy Lights driver Zach Veach drives the Andretti Autosport No. 12 K12 machine. For more on Zach, go to www.zachveach.com.