Every athlete has feelings. They all also have a backstory. I think fans forget that. As much as we want to boo or discourage them, they all have a reason to why they’re here and a story on how they’ve made it to the top. Most of the time, we just don’t know what some of them went through on their journey. More on this later. It will all makes sense.
For the third time time of the season, the NTT IndyCar Series drivers return to action this weekend at the Barber Motorsports Park. But, next week, well it’s a big one. It’s Long Beach. For one driver, he’s thrilled just to be returning to the scenic street course in Southern California.
Last year, Zach Veach brought his No. 26 Honda home fourth in the Grand Prix of Long Beach. He did so in just his fifth career start in the series. That gives him high hopes in the return trip this weekend.
“It’s fun being back for the first time after that fourth place finish,” Zach Veach told us in an exclusive interview as our guest on Prime Sports IndyCar. Obviously, we want to finish three places higher this year. It comes down to the pace of the race.
“Your rookie year when you come here, you really don’t understand how the race is going to play out. You’re just trying to do the best you can. After having a full year under my belt it allows you to look back at the strategy of the race. We’re just now going back and looking through that race and we’re like aww man, we missed a couple of opportunities that could have at least got us on the podium last year.”
https://primesportsnetwork.com/?powerpress_embed=19144-podcast&powerpress_player=mediaelement-audio“>Listen To The Full Interview Here
Veach, says that the speed has been there in his Gainbridge Honda this season but the luck hasn’t. If he had better luck, he’d for sure be in contention to win. He notes that the series is so competitive now, that as many as 18 of the starters have a chance to win on any given race weekend.
“I’m very confident that one little thing breaks my way that we can get my first Indy Car win this season,” Veach continued. “The speed’s been natural. It’s not like you’re pushing over your head to get it anymore. That comes with experience. For us it’s always a build up to the Indy 500. Each race that we go to we’re just trying to consistently get better so that when we get to the end of May all that effort is ready to go for the biggest race of the year.
“I think Indy Car is doing a great job with the car that they’ve given us. The car is so much harder to driver with the lack of downforce that you see in other series. The car is moving around constantly. A little error is a pretty big mistake in these things. It definitely puts it in the hands of the drivers. I think the couple past years that we’ve had is the closest IndyCar has been ever. Literally the difference between getting a pole in an Indy Car race and starting 12th is three inches around the track.”
Veach though, is not only happy to have been talking to us while promoting Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach (4 p.m. ET/NBCSN/IndyCar Radio Network) but he’s happy to just be in the series in general. See, a lot of people don’t know this about Veach, but despite him being one of the kindest, most hardest working drivers in the paddock, he was unfortunately bullied growing up. If Veach had listened to the bullies, he wouldn’t be talking to us today. He’d be doing something else, definitely not racing in the most competitive series in the world.
According to the United Nations, an estimated 7.7 billion people live on this place we call Earth. Only 24 of those humans are lucky enough to call themselves Indy Car drivers. Veach, is one of those lucky 24.
The Ohio native isn’t just getting the last laugh on his bullies, he’s using his racing platform for the betterment of society. He could be arrogant and doing the look at me now thing. He has every reason to. Instead, he’s using his platform for a different cause.
When he was just 15 years old Veach, started a campaign against texting and driving. He did so because he lost a close friend because of it. Instead of sulking, he wrote a book. He’s a published author. He’s not only using his platform to raise awareness on the dangers of texting behind the wheel of a car but he’s also wanting kids to know that even if you’re being bullied, you’re not alone. You don’t have to become who the bullies want you to be.
“For me, first and foremost, I’ve always wanted to be a race car driver,” Veach admitted. “The way I look at it, there’s multiple races I want to win, obviously the Indy 500. But, if you win the Indy 500 three or four times, which is historic, and you don’t do anything to help anyone along the way, you kind of did it for all the wrong reasons. It’s just selfish.
“I just kind of always wanted to leave the world kind of in a better place when it was without me and just helping people along. I lost a close friend due to texting while driving. I was kind of bullied through school when I told kids I wanted to be a race car driver. I always believed that if we can educate kids about careers, especially through motorsports, then we’re going to have A. more fans and B. more people involved one day. It’s just trying to help people as I’ve had the privilege of being helped through my life.”
Kids can be mean. We all know that. For Veach, he’s always had the talent but never the size. He can’t help that. At 24 years old, he only stands at 5-5, 125 pounds. People tend to forget that these cars travel more than a football field a second. They go speeds in excess of 200 mph. The force on their bodies in each turn of a race track is greater than that of the g-forces an astronaut feels when going into space. Oh yeah, the cars don’t have power steering either.
Did I mention Veach is only 125 pounds?
The bullies used his size against him. That’s cruel. He could have caved. He nearly did but luckily rose above it.
“110-percent,” Veach said on if the bullying that came his way was because of his size. “I come from a really small town. If you weren’t on the football or baseball team, then you were a no one. I told kids I had dreams of the Indy 500, they made fun of me saying you’re never going to do that. That’s an impossible dream. It almost got me to a point where I thought, you know what, I can’t do this. Today, starting my second year in Indy Car, sitting here in Long Beach, I think man, if I had listened to those kids my life would be completely different.
“I was lucky enough to have a really good support group. My parents, my teachers, they helped push me along. Some kids don’t have that support group. That’s my big thing. I want to make sure kids follow what they want to do and not let people get in the way of that.”
Can you imagine the series without Veach today? If you weren’t following his journey by now, it’s a good time to start. He’s a great driver to root for on and off the track.
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