Pardon your humble host for a bit of merriment in the title of this post, for it wasn’t that long ago Zach Veach was appearing on NBC’s The Today Show to discuss his book “99 Things Teens Wish They Knew Before Turning 16”. He was, ahem, sixteen himself at the time of publication.
Then again, maybe six years is a long time, or at least has been for Veach. His future seemed ridiculously bright, racing up the Mazda Road to Indy ladder with Andretti Autosport from 2010 to 2014, capped by a three-win season in Indy Lights that led him to a third-place overall finish.
And then came 2015, which for Veach was “a year away from the cockpit”. For whatever reason his career was parked, which was probably more troubling considering Veach’s longtime Andretti teammate Sage Karam (2010-2012) had already moved through Indy Lights in 2013 and had gone on to the IndyCar level. But Veach persisted in his efforts and returned to Indy Lights last season with Belardi Auto Racing, winning two of the last three races at Watkins Glen and Laguna Seca.
This year was already shaping up well for him, as Veach was recently confirmed for the third Indianapolis 500 entry for AJ Foyt Racing. Now comes word that he will log his first Indycar race driving for Ed Carpenter Racing this weekend at Barber, in place of JR Hildebrand and his broken left hand.
(“Try not to take so many warm-up paragraphs before getting to the point.” – The Spotter)
From the press release:
Ed Carpenter Racing continues a pattern of seeking out young American talent by giving the nod to Veach. The 22-year-old will be making his Verizon IndyCar Series debut this weekend. As fate would have it, the first Indy car Veach drove was the No. 21 in an Indy Lights Series Driver Test day at Sonoma Raceway in September 2016. He has six Indy Lights wins, including three last season on his way to a third place finish in the championship. The Stockdale, Ohio native has already been confirmed to drive in this year’s Indianapolis 500 for fellow Chevrolet-powered team AJ Foyt Racing.
“First and foremost, my thoughts are with JR and his recovery, that’s the most important part of this!” Veach said. “My heart goes out to him as I suffered a broken hand a couple years ago and I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone. This isn’t how any driver wants to get his first race but with that said, I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity to sub for JR.”
“Ed (Carpenter) gave me my first chance to test an Indy car a few months ago. It’s going to be very special for me to be back in that same car representing Fuzzy’s Vodka at Barber,” continued Veach. “It’s going to be a lot to take in in a short amount of time, but I’m really excited to do the best I can for the team, as well as JR!”
Tony Dizinno notes the last driver to work as an injury fill-in at Barber was. . .Simon Pagenaud in 2011. What a difference a few years can make, as Veach is getting seat time while Karam is now the one who’s career seems stalled. Welcome to the big leagues, Zach. At long last.
Final Lap: Speaking of 2011, here’s the then 16-year-old Veach on The Today Show that year. He certainly looks, umm, youthful.