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.”

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.