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.”

INDYCAR Preview – KOHLER Grand Prix

Photo: IndyCar
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One of the great road courses in the United States, Road America, plays host to the next round of the Verizon IndyCar Series – the KOHLER Grand Prix (Sunday June 24, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

A staple of IndyCar between 1982 and 2007, IndyCar returned to Road America amidst great fanfare in 2016. And the two visits since its return have not disappointed.

Will Power held off a hard-charging Tony Kanaan to win in 2016, while Graham Rahal survived a thrilling battle for third to round out the podium. And last year, Scott Dixon made an outstanding outside pass on Josef Newgarden in Turn 1 to take the lead on a late-race restart, and he held on to win from there – it was also his only victory of 2017.

And if the previous road and street courses are any indication, Sunday’s race could be another thriller on the 4.048-mile road course.

Major talking points ahead of the KOHLER Grand Prix are below.

The Rise of Dixon

Scott Dixon celebrates victory in the DXC Technology 600. Photo: IndyCar

The 2018 IndyCar season is beginning look a lot like a Scott Dixon year.

After a somewhat slow start to his season, Dixon caught fire in the month of May. He finished second at the INDYCAR Grand Prix, then third at the Indianapolis 500.

He followed that up with a ferocious first two weeks of June, winning Race 1 of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit and finishing fourth in Race 2. He followed that up by dominating the second half of the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway to take his second win of the season, and his second in three races.

That stretch has put Dixon into the championship lead for the first time this season. And he is also the defending winner of the KOHLER Grand Prix, after passing then leader Josef Newgarden on a late-race restart, so he likely enters the weekend as the favorite.

“Obviously I’m happy with where the team has been running these past few weekends, but we’ve been there the whole season. We just haven’t shown the results for one reason or another,” Dixon explained. “While most had the weekend off, we had the opportunity to compete again at Le Mans, which is a very special deal. So now we’re back, and after a few short days at home, it’s Road America. We had a great car here last year picking up the win for the No. 9 team, and I’m hoping we can do it again this weekend with the PNC Bank car.”

Dixon won’t go nearly as far as to talk anything championship-related at the moment, but a fifth championship is most certainly possible.

Road America Could Become Very Tire-some

Tire strategy will likely be at the forefront in Road America. Photo: IndyCar

The primary “black” and alternate “red” Firestone tires have created genuinely intriguing racing in recent weeks.

The difference in grip levels between them saw Will Power and Robert Wickens engage in a fantastic and tactical mid-race duel at the INDYCAR Grand Prix, and it created a lot of drama across both races in Belle Isle, culminating in Ryan Hunter-Reay’s charge to victory in Race 2.

And last year’s KOHLER Grand Prix ultimately came down to tire strategy. The aforementioned Dixon passed Newgarden because he was on the alternate “red” tires, while Newgarden was on the primary “blacks” – Newgarden also took the lead earlier in the race using the same tactic, getting onto reds when other leaders were on blacks, which helped him pass Helio Castroneves for the lead.

It’s within reason to think this weekend at Road America will be more of the same.

Newgarden’s Season Slipping Away?

Josef Newgarden. Photo: IndyCar

Josef Newgarden entered the month of May on a hot streak, having won two of the opening four races to lead the championship as the series headed to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The wheels have metaphorically come off a bit since then. He finished 11th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix after spinning late in the race, eighth at the Indy 500, ninth and 15th in Detroit, and 13th at Texas Motor Speedway.

That stretch has dropped him from the championship lead to fifth in the standings, 68 points off Dixon for the title lead.

If he is to get himself back into title contention, he’ll need to get back on the podium this weekend. And fortunately for Newgarden, the Road America circuit ranks at the top of his personal favorites.

“I’m not shy on saying that Road America is probably my favorite track. I really love racing there. It’s a fun road course with a lot of great INDYCAR fans, so what’s not to love?” Newgarden asserted. “These cars with the new aero kit have been super exciting on road courses and this weekend will be no different. The entire No. 1 Verizon Chevy team and I are pumped to get on track there. I thought we were strong at Texas after not living up to our standards at Detroit, but we just ran out of luck. Myself and the entire team are ready to really come back strong to gain more points to continue our hunt for another championship.”

Misc.

  • Ryan Hunter-Reay is quietly beginning to put together a title-contending year. Outside of a 20th at Long Beach, and 18th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix, Hunter-Reay’s worst finish is fifth (three times), and he three podiums to his name, including his Detroit Race 2 victory. He sits 49 points behind Dixon, well within striking distance. This is about the time of the year when he started his title run back in 2012, which culminated in a series championship for him, and 2018 could be headed in that direction.
  • Graham Rahal sits sixth in the standings, 107 points back. His crash in Detroit Race 1 undoubtedly hurt his title chances, but he has been incredibly consistent outside of that, finishing inside the Top 10 at every other race. However, he’ll need some victories later in the year if he is to put himself back in the title picture.
  • Juncos Racing returns to the grid, with Alfonso Celis making his IndyCar debut. A standout and race winner in World Series Formula V8 3.5, he previously raced with Juncos in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires at Barber Motorsports Park, where he finished seventh and eighth.

The Final Word…

From Robert Wickens, who made his IndyCar debut in Friday practice last year at Road America – he subbed for Mikhail Aleshin, who was delayed in arriving at Road America following the 24 Hours of Le Mans:

“I’m really looking forward to Road America. I think, in the last few races, we’ve shown our potential. We’ve shown that we’re quick. Now we need to try to get back on the podium. Road America is always a fun track, and it’s where I got my first taste of INDYCAR with SPM so I can’t wait to actually race the Lucas Oil car here.”

Here’s the IndyCar weekend schedule:

At-track schedule (all times local):

Friday, June 22
11:00-11:45 a.m. (12:00-12:45 p.m. ET) – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #1, RaceControl.IndyCar.com (Live)
3:15-4:15 p.m. (4:15-5:15 p.m. ET) – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #2, RaceControl.IndyCar.com (Live)

Saturday, June 23
11:00-11:45 a.m. (12:00-12:45 p.m. ET) – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #3, RaceControl.IndyCar.com (Live)
3:00 p.m. (4:00 p.m. ET) – Qualifying for the Verizon P1 Award (three rounds of knockout qualifying), NBCSN (5:30 p.m. same-day delay)

Sunday, June 24
11:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m. ET) – NBCSN on-air
12:05 p.m. (1:05 p.m. ET) – KOHLER Grand Prix (55 laps/220.77 miles), NBCSN (Live)

Here’s last year’s Top 10:

1. Scott Dixon
2. Josef Newgarden
3. Helio Castroneves
4. Simon Pagenaud
5. Will Power
6. Charlie Kimball
7. Ed Jones
8. Graham Rahal
9. Max Chilton
10. Mikhail Aleshin

Here’s last year’s Firestone Fast Six:

1. Helio Castroneves
2. Will Power
3. Josef Newgarden
4. Simon Pagenaud
5. Scott Dixon
6. Graham Rahal

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