May 28 is the day Zach Veach’s dream will come true. The day can’t come fast enough—and Veach wants to go really fast on that particular day.
The 22-year-old will finally take a seat and run in his first Indianapolis 500.
“It’s something I have dreamed about since I was four,” Veach said. “I’m so excited about this opportunity of a lifetime.”
Zach, who first started racing go carts at age 12 in Circleville, Ohio, joined AJ Foyt Racing April 7, 2017 and will make his rookie debut in the 101st running of the 500.
“I think he will make a fine young rookie,” Foyt said. “He was very good in the smaller cars, and I think he can graduate up to the Indy cars pretty quick.”
Veach was recently in Long Beach, California when Foyt talked to Veach about joining his race team.
“He is very focused, and he was watching every move the guys were doing at Long Beach as well as watching everything going on at the Indy test,” Foyt added. “When somebody pays attention that closely, it’s because they want to do good, and I think he will do good.”
Anytime the first ever four-time Indy 500 champion gives you a chance to be in the greatest spectacle in racing, you don’t wait, Veach added of Foyt’s offer.
“I was just so humbled he gave me this chance,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have a solid reputation around the drivers, and they know I’ve been dreaming of this opportunity.”
AJ Foyt’s son Larry had developed a friendship with Veach and knew the Stockdale, Ohio native was looking for a ride in the 500. At the same time, Foyt Racing was thinking about adding a third car to the field. It was a natural fit.
The only hurdle Veach had to jump was to come up with a sponsor.
No problem. The Ladies’ Professional Golf Association stepped up and met Veach’s need.
The LPGA has added a new tournament his year. It’s the Indy Women In Tech Championship sponsored by Guggenheim. The event is new to the tour, and Veach is also new to the 500. They were the perfect pair since the tour will make its debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – just like Veach.
“The car sponsorship will help bring recognition to the tour stopping here in September,” Veach said. “I’m very grateful they are going to be my sponsor.”
Veach, who graduated from the Ohio Virtual Academy, technically does have to qualify for the race. But since there are only 33 slots and 33 entrants, the odds seem good he will make the time needed to be in the field.
He first attended the Indianapolis 500 in 2007. The next year he had to miss due to his brother’s graduation, but he has come back every year since. “It’s such a special place,” he said. “It’s just magical, and I’m so thrilled to be living out my dream and racing here.”
Since Veach was 4 years old, he can remember wanting to drive in the Indianapolis 500. Over the past 10 years, he has been “busting my butt” to make it happen. His realistic goal the past decade was to get where he is now — a few weeks away from the Brickyard.
“You keep telling yourself it’s going to happen, and you sacrifice so much in your life and go on blind faith,” he said. “And when you finally get that chance, it’s such a relief.”
Veach knows he must perform now that he’s in the biggest race of his young career.
He plans to “spend as much time as possible” with his mechanics and engineers to prep the car. He will spend the mornings working with his personal trainer to get into top physical shape, and during the afternoons, he will be in the race shop with his crew.
“I have to know this car inside and out,” he said. “I’m dedicated to showing them what I can do on the track.”
Up until now, the biggest achievement Veach had was also at Indianapolis last year. He was the first Indy Lights driver to average more than 200 mph at the Speedway. “Any time you can make history here, it’s special,” he said.
The Indy Lights series is the highest level of junior racing in America. Instead of topping out at 240 mph like Indy cars, the Indy Lights cars usually top out at 212 mph.
Besides driving in the race, Veach has another honor. His car will be No. 40 and that is significant to the rookie. It was 40 years ago when AJ Foyt won his fourth checkered flag, and he was the first driver to ever do so. “It’s a big privilege for me to have that number,” he said.
Although Veach will realize his dream and compete with some of the world’s most talented drivers, he doesn’t lose sight of his beginnings in a rural Southern Ohio town of about 250 people.
“I’ve always had great people around me,” he said. “Especially my father who encouraged and helped me at a young age. He always told me anything is possible, and I’m finding that out now.”
On May 28, all of Stockdale and Minford will be cheering for Veach and No. 40.
“I know so many people will be pulling for me back home,” he said. “I have a wonderful support system there, and I’m going to do all I can do make our little town proud.”
Del Duduit is an award-winning writer and freelancer who lives in Lucasville, Ohio. You can follow his blog at www.delduduit.com and on Twitter @delduduit