For Zach Veach, Milwaukee a valuable learning lesson

Leave a comment

Although Sage Karam won Saturday’s Firestone Indy Lights Series race at the Milwaukee Mile, his former teammate and budding rival Zach Veach had his breakout weekend for Andretti Autosport.

The driver of the No. 12 K12 entry (photo credit: IndyCar photo) started second and finished third, each the best result of his rookie season. However it could have been much more; Veach led the opening 56 circuits after passing Karam from the initial green flag.

Where Veach got into trouble was that he used up his tires too early in the 100-lap race. That made it difficult to get through traffic and cost him his lead he had built up of more than four seconds.

Key lessons learned then, for the Stockdale, Ohio native who was the first driver to test in all three divisions of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder (he and Karam have raced in all three: Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000).

“I got quoted by Sage saying I jumped the start, but we were just side-by-side,” Veach explained in an interview Wednesday. “I think he was a little asleep, and waited a little too long. They threw the green so it was an ven playing field.

“Definitely we pushed a little hard early. They key was to get the lead right on the start and carry it a few laps. But as a rookie, I over pushed a bit, then I started having some tire trouble.

“When it came to lapped traffic, we pushed so hard at the beginning that we didn’t quite have the tire to make an easy pass,” he added. “It’s a handful at Milwaukee without the banking.”

Both drivers had raced at Milwaukee before in 2011 (Veach in USF2000, Karam in Pro Mazda). Veach took his 2013 experience as his initial one because the cars are so different; the Lights car is much heavier with the “musclely” V8 block in the back, while the USF2000 car has much less downforce and skinnier tires.

Veach also took the time to praise his sophomore teammate Carlos Munoz, who returned to focus solely on Lights at Milwaukee after his incredible month of May and runner-up finish in the Indianapolis 500.

“Honestly, this is why I love Carlos as much as I do. Right after we got off the track, now it’s time to focus back on Lights,” Veach said of Munoz. “He’s got a high maturity level. I came into this situation, being a little underprepared for the off-track things and studying data.

“Now I’m seeing how much really goes into it. It’s allowed me to revamp my protocol when it comes to working at the track. In Lights, you’re studying data, video, engineering setups. It’s a whole lot more work in a way, the Mazda Road to Indy is like high school, each level has more responsibility, and Carlos has been a big help on that.”

‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’


NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”