A.J. Foyt Racing

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Veach sustains heavy impact exiting Turn 1 near end of Friday practice

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INDIANAPOLIS – Another young driver has found the wall in an IndyCar for the first time at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In the final 20 minutes of practice, Zach Veach had a tank-slapper in the No. 40 Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim Chevrolet for AJ Foyt Racing. The 22-year-old rookie out of Stockdale, Ohio got too deep below the white line on corner entry into Turn 1.

Veach corrected it the first time but on a second correction, overcorrected and went into the wall on the right side. His car continued down the short chute and made secondary contact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 2.

“Not exactly sure at this point,” Veach said. “We were a little nervous. Took some front wing out. Got to middle of one and it just turned. I’ve never had anything that quickly before. Right on exit, something happened and I lost the car. Not sure if twas my own doing or something let go. I hate it for these guys. We have made a lot of progress. We’ve got tomorrow, weather permitting.”

Veach has been checked, released and cleared to drive but his crew faces a long night of repairs ahead of them.

Conor Daly stays on top during second Gateway session

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Chevrolet again topped the evening test session at Gateway Motorsports Park, and again the name at the top of the time sheets was somewhat of a surprise. Conor Daly backed up his speed from earlier in the day by again turning the fastest lap of the session, doing so at an average speed of 176.907 mph in the No. 4 ABC Supply Co. Chevrolet for AJ Foyt Racing.

Also like the first session, Daly led home an armada from Team Penske, with Helio Castroneves turning the fastest lap of that group and ending the session in second. Juan Montoya, Josef Newgarden, and Simon Pagenaud rounded out the top five.

Scott Dixon was the fastest Honda in sixth, while teammate Tony Kanaan was the only other Honda in the top ten (ninth) on a day in which the Chevrolet teams flexed their muscle.

The session saw only short bursts of running with several stoppages for track inspection, something Gateway Motorsports Park announced proactively via their twitter page just after running began.

Of note: JR Hildebrand, who crashed in the earlier session, did not return to the track, his Ed Carpenter Racing team unable to repair his car after the incident. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Takuma Sato also did not turn laps in the evening session.

Further, INDYCAR and Gateway battled endless tricky track conditions throughout the day. Prior to testing, over nine inches of rain fell in the days leading into the event, and the series and track battled weepers throughout the days. Conditions remained an issue in the evening, forcing the series to stop the running prematurely. INDYCAR and Gateway released the following statement regarding the stoppage.

“Gateway Motorsports Park and INDYCAR overcame tremendous challenges to conduct a successful series open test session today, despite 9.5 inches of rainfall in the two days leading up to the event. Officials worked tirelessly to prepare the racing surface, which included drilling holes to relieve pressure of ground water and additional proactive measures.”

The statement continued, “During the course of today’s practices, conditions developed that made it necessary to stop the test early, within an hour of the scheduled time. The conditions will be promptly addressed by INDYCAR and Gateway officials, and all are confident of a successful solution when the series returns to the track. It was a valuable day for teams to gather information for the race event in August, and a great day for the fans who attended and were able to see their favorite cars and drivers up close.

Times for the second session are below. The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to Gateway on August 26 for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline.

 

Zach Veach: Foyt Indy 500 seat ‘the best comeback of my career’

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LONG BEACH, Calif. – The first of two weekend confirmations for this year’s 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil occurred on Friday as Zach Veach was announced in A.J. Foyt Racing’s third Chevrolet for the month of May.

For the 22-year-old out of Stockdale, Ohio, it comes as the culmination of a long road through the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires and a brief hiatus when it looked like his career might have stalled out entirely. Through methodical hard work, development and persistence, Veach’s story is a good one as he’ll arrive for his first Indianapolis 500.

Veach, who will drive the No. 40 Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim entry, has been a mainstay in the MRTI since 2010, when he debuted with Andretti Autosport.

Although he’d won a handful of races en route to a title in the 2011 Cooper Tires Winterfest and posted back-to-back top-five finishes in the 2010 and 2011 regular seasons, he didn’t seem to be an immediate IndyCar prospect.

That said, his name started to emerge on the fringe of the conversation through his business savvy, which seemed advanced for his teenage years. He’d written a book, 99 Things Teens Wish They Knew Before Turning 16 (released on his 16th birthday), and campaigned against distracting driving in those years.

Veach finished 10th in his step up to Star Mazda in 2012 – a field that would include eventual IndyCar drivers Jack Hawksworth, Gabby Chaves and Sage Karam and others such as Connor De Phillippi, Gustavo Menezes, Stefan Rzadzinski, Ashley Freiberg and Corey Lewis who have moved on to sports cars – and then went to Indy Lights in 2013 where he finished seventh.

Veach finished third in Indy Lights in 2014 courtesy of a quantum leap in performance in his second year with Andretti Autosport. He won three times and had a shot at the title going into the final races of the season, but came up short to Chaves and Jack Harvey, who tied on points.

A hand injury and subsequent surgery sidelined his progress and cost him nearly the entire 2015 season. But it was that year, when he was out of the cockpit full-time save for a one-off entry in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with JDC-Miller Motorsports’ Oreca FLM09 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, that may have been the most pivotal in his career to date.

Veach interviewing Tony Kanaan. Photo: IndyCar

He’d met Brian Belardi and stayed in touch with the team owner throughout the year, as one meeting in a year when he kept himself entrenched in the IndyCar paddock as a member of IndyCar Radio. Veach hadn’t considered broadcasting from the start but quickly became a natural; he’s hopped on occasional broadcasts the last two years in both analyst and pit reporting roles. He also stayed in the paddock as a driver of two-seater IndyCars.

“Sitting at home with a cast on my hand and missing Indianapolis 500 practice, that was a time I thought it might be over,” Veach told NBC Sports. “But this is the best comeback of my career. Having Brian Belardi last year was key, and I have to thank him and everyone that kept me out front to get me in front of IndyCar teams.”

Veach’s 2016 season was a comeback story that was a good one in a significantly deeper Indy Lights field. He and Belardi won three races (Road America 1, Watkins Glen, Monterey 1 – incidentally where yours truly filled in on IndyCar Radio as an analyst for the Road America and Watkins Glen races!) and could have won more had it not been for a couple mechanical issues. Teammate Felix Rosenqvist won three races in a limited season, and also lost at least one win for something outside his hands.

He also made his IndyCar test debut for the first time at Sonoma with Ed Carpenter Racing, in what was widely considered a positive test.

But whether or not Veach could translate that solid effort on track into an actual race seat would again come down to those outside the cockpit business and networking lessons learned earlier. It seems a series of connections helped land his primary sponsor for this race.

“I think it was one of the quickest deals in Indy history,” Veach laughed. “From the time I called them, then getting to a verbal agreement that we could do, this took four days. I got lucky because Aaron Brockett, who’s the lead pastor of Traders Point Church, in Zionsville, Indiana, has helped to provide guidance in my life, personally and in my career. I called him and asked if he could help me. That led to Dan (Towress), the President and CEO of Guggenheim Life… and everything snowballed from there.”

Veach understands expectations will be modest and he has a lot to learn, with his first running expected for the Rookie Orientation Program. And Foyt’s team is in the process of learning and developing both the Chevrolet aero kit and engine; Veach is expected to have Andy Brown as engineer and Andy O’Gara as strategist to aid his own development. Brown worked with Matthew Brabham at PIRTEK Team Murray last year and O’Gara was long a staple with wife Sarah Fisher’s Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and CFH Racing teams through 2015.

A.J. Foyt said the trio of Veach, Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly will be an intriguing group of youngsters.

“I was young at one time, not any more, but one time. Of course, Mother Superior told me we had to put 40 on the car because it’s been 40 years since I won the ’77 race. That’s how we come up with the number,” he said.

“No, I always liked to work with young people. I think that’s how you build winners, is with young people. When you get actually so old, you’re just not going to win. Young guns, they want to win. That’s what we’re looking for.”

For Veach, two of his young colleagues and fellow Indy Lights veterans – Munoz and Chaves – will be key to his development and progression during May. Munoz was his teammate in 2013 and promptly finished second in the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie for Andretti Autosport; Chaves won the Freedom 100 the following year and has quickly become Veach’s best friend. The two hang out regularly and travel together, most recently doing two-seater driver duties at Long Beach. Chaves’ Indianapolis 500 program is close but not confirmed yet.

“Carlos taught me not to be afraid of the white line!” Veach said. “It’s no secret he likes to run down by the curbing. If it’s fast, I’ll transition into it! I’ve always had the little big brother/relationship with him and (his manager). He has three or four races under his belt already.

“I’m leaning on Gabby Chaves too. He’s my closest friend, he’s done the race two times now, and he gives me every bit of advice. I have a lot of good friends to lean on.”

He’ll be one of at least three rookies in this year’s Indianapolis 500 (Harvey, Ed Jones) with potentially more to come.

Zach Veach’s Indy 500 debut confirmed with Foyt

Zach Veach. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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LONG BEACH, Calif. – A seven-year veteran of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, Zach Veach will finally be making his Verizon IndyCar Series debut in this year’s 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

The 22-year-old native of Stockdale, Ohio has been confirmed in A.J. Foyt Racing’s third car (No. 40 Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim Chevrolet) for the race. Veach won three times last year in the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires series and made his IndyCar test debut at Sonoma Raceway in September with Ed Carpenter Racing and was working towards an IndyCar program for 2017.

Veach will keep Foyt’s team the youngest at this year’s Indianapolis 500, as he’s alongside Conor Daly and Carlos Munoz in the pair of ABC Supply Co. Chevrolets. Both Daly and Munoz are 25 years old; Daly has made three Indianapolis 500 starts (2013, 2015, 2016) and Munoz four (2013-2016), Munoz having finished second twice in 2013 and last year.

“To compete in the Indianapolis 500 is a dream I’ve had since I was four years old, so when the opportunity came about to join AJ Foyt Racing with the support of the IWiT Championship and Guggenheim, I was ecstatic,” Veach said in a release. “A lot of great people helped me to follow my dream, so I’m thrilled to be part of this program that strives to advance career opportunities for women in the field of science and technology.”

“We are happy to have another great entry for the 101st Indianapolis 500,” added Larry Foyt, president of AJ Foyt Racing. “Zach Veach is one of those drivers who has proven he deserves the opportunity by winning through the Mazda Road to Indy series, and he has put in massive effort to get to this level. The IWiT Championship is a great event for the Indianapolis community, and we are proud to help promote this event and welcome the LPGA back to Indianapolis.”

More to follow either later this weekend or next week.

IndyCar: Foyt, Coyne, RLL teams begin Sebring test

Carlos Munoz in his first test with Foyt. Photo: IndyCar
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Three teams and five cars in this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series have headed to the happy hunting grounds of Sebring International Raceway’s short course for their first tests ahead of the 2017 season.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal and Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais, past teammates themselves, were both on track for the first time since a test at Gateway Motorsports Park last October.

Rahal’s No. 15 Honda was adorned in United Rentals primary colors, with other RLL Racing partners such as Steak ‘n Shake, Mi-Jack, Hyatt and D-A Lubricants also on board. It marked a quick change from the all-red livery that was on for the Gateway test. This also presented RLL the first track opportunity to work with new engineering consultant Tom German, formerly of Andretti-Herta Autosport, and a multiple-time Indianapolis 500-race winning engineer.

For Bourdais, his No. 19 Coyne Honda was back in the black-and-green colors of Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality this test, albeit without that signage present. Bourdais, who’s bullish but cautiously optimistic on his return to Coyne for the first time since 2011, had his first day of on-track running with all three of Coyne’s key engineers (Craig Hampson, Olivier Boisson, Mike Cannon). Boisson, like Bourdais formerly of KVSH Racing, was still under contract to KVSH when the team tested at Gateway.

This also marked the first IndyCar test with his new team for Ed Jones, the 2016 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion. Jones tested multiple times with RLL Racing in 2015 and 2016 and like Bourdais, was sidetracked from his would-be first test in December. The team rescheduled that test for these two days.

A.J. Foyt Racing, meanwhile, took to the track for the first time with Chevrolet engines and aero kits. The deal was long in the works for the team to switch from Honda, but was only formalized last week. This also marked the first chance for the team to run with new technical director Will Phillips, formerly of INDYCAR.

This gave new drivers Conor Daly and Carlos Munoz time to get on track for the first time since the end of the 2016 season at Sonoma, and first run overall both with the new team and the Chevy kit. Both drivers were Honda drivers in 2015 and 2016.

The test continues tomorrow; more info on today’s test can be found via IndyCar.com.