Veach Ready for Challenging Indy Lights Season
After a 2014 Indy Lights season that included three victories and six other podium finishes, 2015 was set to be a year of promise for Zach Veach.
Instead, the Belardi Auto Racing driver was at the race track, just not in a race car.
“I spent a lot of time at the race track, just not in a spot I wanted to be. I got to do a lot of cool things with NBC Sports, I got to work with Paul Page and Mark Jaynes with the IndyCar radio network covering Indy Lights races as well as some IndyCar races, and I stayed in touch with the Belardi guys,” Veach told Popular Open Wheel.
Staying in touch with the Belardi team was easy to do. Gabby Chaves beat Veach to the Indy Lights title in 2014, and Chaves was Belardi’s only full-time driver in Indy Lights that year. Veach was trying to broker a deal for 2015, but fate intervened, delaying any deal until 2016.
“We were actually trying to do the Freedom 100 [at Indianapolis] with them in 2015, but then I had a broken hand and had to have surgery, so that took me out of that running. We had the foundation already laid [for a deal], but we needed the right opportunity, and luckily enough it came for this year,” Veach said.
Veach’s season this year will be a major challenge for him. He’s driving a new car in Indy Lights, which underwent a successful debut season in 2015 after replacing a car that debuted in 2002. The two cars couldn’t be any more different to drive, especially after having driven the new car at Barber Motorsports Park a mere two years after having earned his second Indy Lights win there in the old car.
“We’re going around here close to three to four seconds [per lap] faster than the old Indy Lights car, and just the amount of downforce and the amount of grip you have in the new car is astounding. I remember you could do a 40 lap stint around here [in the old car], and you wouldn’t be tired at all, and when you put new tires on the new car, you go out for a ten lap stint and you feel like your neck is broken. The car’s definitely more physical, it accelerates harder, it brakes harder, it turns harder, it’s just a more aggressive beast, that’s for sure,” Veach added.
The last major hurdle for Veach will be his teammate. Veach is driving alongside a driver with one of the most impressive European open-wheel ladder résumés in the last ten years. Sweden’s Felix Rosenqvist has won the Macau F3 race twice, the Masters of Formula 3 twice, and the 2015 European F3 championship before making the move to the United States, a move which makes Veach look forward even more to 2016.
“It’s exciting for me, because if there’s going to be somebody strong like Felix coming in, you want him on your team because then you’re going to learn off each other. He’s the first European teammate I’ve ever had, so I didn’t know how that was going to go, and he’s the most open teammate I’ve ever had. I’ve never worked as close with someone as I have with him in the last couple of tests we’ve done,” Veach noted.
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