Zach Veach all about 12 in 2013 Indy Lights season

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Indy Lights driver Zach Veach and the number 12 appear to be inextricably linked this year. The Stockdale, Ohio native is driving the No. 12 K12 entry for Andretti Autosport in Indy Lights, six years after he began his racing career at – you guessed it – age 12.

Some fast facts about one of the two American full-season rookies entered in Indy Lights:

  • Zach & former teammate Sage Karam will become the first drivers to have competed at every level of the Mazda Road to Indy (USF2000, Star Mazda/Pro Mazda, Indy Lights)
  • Zach set the unofficial track record at IMS this past fall in an Indy Lights car during the annual open test, becoming the youngest to hold a “record” at the track. Zach was P2 in the last open test at Homestead & Sebring. His teammate was P1 at both of the last two sessions.
  • Won the 2012 Formula Car Challenge presented by Goodyear Winter Series championship, his second straight winter series championship following winning the USF2000 Winterfest Championship in 2011
  • Won the Most Popular Driver Award in 2011 and 2012 in USF2000 and Star Mazda, respectively
  • Listed as one of CNN’s most “Intriguing People” in 2010, while ESPN The Magazine named him NEXT in motorsports in 2011. Sports Illustrated followed in agreement in 2012, naming him a “Face in the Crowd”
  • A published author, Zach released 99 THINGS TEENS WISH THEY KNEW BEFORE TURNING 16 in 2011 with an appearance on NBC’s The Today Show
  • Off the track, Zach is an advocate against distracted driving and bullying prevention, having worked alongside Oprah Winfrey’s No Phone Zone campaign (He is also the national spokesperson for FocusDriven, an advocacy group for victims of motor vehicle crashes involving drivers using their cell phones, in partnership with the Department of Transportation) and The Great American No BULL Challenge anti-bullying movement with Dr. Oz and his daughter Zoe
  • Turned 18 this past December
  • Driving the No 12 car for AA this season
  • If not racing: would want to create video games
  • Graduates from high school this May
  • He was just named to Got Chocolate Milk’s Team Refuel. Say’s he’d drink Chocolate Milk if he won the Indy 500. Other notable athletes who are part of Got Chocolate Milk? are: Kurt Warner, Hines Ward, Chris Lieto, Carmelo Anthony, Dara Torres, and Apolo Ohno

“Ever since I can remember, I wanted to try and be a racecar driver,” said Veach. “My dad was a national truck and tractor pulling champion and that was kind of our focus but I kept bugging him that I wanted to race. I finally had the opportunity when I was 12. Dad had just won the national championship and decided it was time for me to have the opportunity to follow my dream too.  So we sold all his stuff and bought a go-kart.

“We were definitely starting a little late but being behind the eight ball just made us work that much harder. Most guys are between 5 and 6 when they start racing so the first couple years for me, we were at the track from dusk till dawn just running until they kicked us out.  We knew we had to play catch up and in only three short years in karting, I moved up to being in a car for Michael Andretti.”

The biggest thing that has aided Veach’s development is consistency with the same team. This marks his fourth straight season with Andretti Autosport.

“I’m very fortunately to be in my fourth season racing for Andretti Autosport,” he said. “In the auto racing business, most drivers tend to jump around a lot and to be staying with the same time is just awesome. The longer I’m with the team I just continue to build a better relationship with the crew guys and the team in general. The guys on my car are the guys that were there when I first signed with the team in 2010.  It’s a really powerful environment and they know exactly what I mean when I say certain things worked or didn’t. I think we are all more aligned as opposed to starting with a new team each year and having to start all over again.”

Cooper solidifies PWC GT presence with Callaway Corvette

Callaway, Cooper, Gill. Photo: PWC
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Pirelli World Challenge could use a “face” of the series from a driving standpoint, and American Michael Cooper is a good candidate to fill that role for 2018.

Cooper, 27, has won PWC Touring Car, GTS and, most recently the SprintX GT titles within the series and has quickly blossomed into one of the series’ top GT stars.

It’s been a rapid rise for the Syosset, N.Y. native, entering into a world filled with series stars and champions such as Johnny O’Connell, Patrick Long, Alvaro Parente and a host of others.

But under O’Connell’s tutelage, Cooper admirably filled the rather gaping shoes vacated by Andy Pilgrim at Cadillac Racing, steering the Cadillac ATS-V.R to multiple race wins in the last two years – including a sweep of this year’s season finale weekend at Sonoma.

Cooper and Jordan Taylor were the model of consistency in SprintX this year, winning once at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and surviving contact at Circuit of The Americas to take that title.

With Cadillac withdrawing its ATS-V.R program at the end of the year though, Cooper was left a free agent for 2018. Fortunately with one door closed another opened, in the form of the GM-blessed but full Callaway Competition USA effort with its Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R that will come Stateside next year. Cooper and Daniel Keilwitz will be in the team’s two cars for the full season; the car was fully unveiled last week at the PRI Show in Indianapolis.

The Callaway is a proven commodity in Europe but couldn’t run in the U.S. unless the path was cleared by one of GM’s factory programs to end a direct, potential head-to-head competition.

Moving from the Cadillac to the Callaway Corvette should be a natural transition, Cooper said last week.

“It worked out incredibly well that GM decided to allow Calloway to run the car in the United States and it created an opportunity for me that wouldn’t have been there otherwise,” he told NBC Sports. “I talked to a lot of other GT teams and at the end of the day, I felt like this was the best direction for me to be competitive next year and to also continue furthering my career with General Motors.”

Indeed Cooper has graduated from the Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R in GTS to the Cadillac and now to the Callaway Corvette. Cooper hailed the Cadillac team for what they did for his career growth.

“Working with Cadillac Racing has been instrumental in developing my abilities both on and off the track,” he said. “So I’m definitely a much more well-rounded driver now and have a lot of experience in the World Challenge GT field, so I kind of know what to expect going into that first race and going into that first corner in St. Pete.”

As noted, the car’s success in Europe means it’s a well-oiled machine by the time Reeves Callaway has worked with PWC to bring it Stateside next year. And as Cooper explained, discussions had been underway for a bit of time to ensure his presence in this car and team.

“I think the car is going to be extremely capable. It’s already won championships and races in Europe. I think, in bringing it over here, we’re going to hit the ground running straight away,” he said.

“Calloway had wanted me to come drive for them in July or August. We always kept in touch since then, and there was a lot of work trying to put together a program before they decided that they were going to do a fully fledged factory program. So once they made that decision, I think the pieces were kind of in place already, and the conversations had been had to be able to say ‘You’re going to be our guy.’”

December is late for IMSA programs to get finalized, but it’s relatively early for PWC, with the season not starting until mid-March in St. Petersburg. An extensive testing program should follow, as Callaway establishes its U.S. base and infrastructure.

“It’s definitely early for a Pirelli World Challenge program to be announced in December when we start racing in March. So that’s very good,” he said. “But, the team has a lot of work ahead of them in terms of getting infrastructure set up here in the United States, because a lot of their racing program has been in Europe. So, there will be a testing program, but they have to get the infrastructure in place first. But, we’ll be well prepared for St. Pete, I’m certain of it.

“Last year was the first year when I could sit back, kick my feet up, and know what I was doing next year. So, to be able to have everything done and be able to announce it this early on makes my life less stressful and now I can just focus on preparing myself and my team for next year.”