INDIANAPOLIS – Lets rewind back to one day in early 2017. I know we’re at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway celebrating a new deal for the Indianapolis 500, but that day in 2017 shaped this announcement.
See, IndyCar driver Zach Veach wasn’t an IndyCar driver yet. He wanted to be, but circumstances had him on the sidelines.
Veach, worked so hard to chase his dream of being an IndyCar driver. As a kid, all he wanted to do was race Indy Car’s. Now, he was 24 hours away from losing that dream. He needed some help and needed some quickly.
If he wanted to keep racing, make this a living of his, he had one day left to do so. Veach, called up his Pastor at Traders Point Christian Church in Zionsville, Indiana for some guidance. See, in racing these days, you have to have talent, but you also have to have money to go with that talent. If you don’t have any money, you’re out of the industry.
Imagine spending 20+ years of your life growing up trying to make it somewhere. All your dreams. All of your hopes. Everything you’ve ever accomplished and you’re 24 hours away from all of it going up in smoke.
Veach, well he has the talent, but he lacked the money. The Ohio native, now living in the Hoosier state trying to accomplish his goals of becoming an IndyCar driver, had one day left in his deadline with AJ Foyt Racing to find the right amount of funding to drive their third car in the 2017 Indianapolis 500. Veach estimates, he made 200 emails and another 100 or so phone calls trying to find someone to put their business on his car. Someone to take a chance on him.
He was desperate and out of options. He thought, maybe my Pastor knows of someone.
That thought and that chat with Pastor Aaron Brockett changed his life forever. It also changed the Indy 500 in terms of a sponsor too.
On Thursday afternoon, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced a new presenting sponsor for the Indianapolis 500. The new deal with Gainbridge is worth four years, as a brand new relationship was formed.
But, that deal we saw get announced on Thursday doesn’t happen without Pastor Brockett giving Veach a name in their conversation who could possibly help. It doesn’t happen without a “Hail Mary” email.
Dan Towriss, President and CEO, Group 1001, parent company of Gainbridge. Towriss, is also a member of the church but wasn’t necessarily a big race fan at the time.
It was a last ditch effort for Veach. He thought, why not?
An email led to a phone call which led to where we are today.
“It was the last resort,” Veach said to me smiling on Thursday afternoon inside of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Media Center. “It was my Hail Mary. I was a day away from my deadline with Foyt and I called everybody in my contacts. I had a feeling that Aaron Brockett from Traders Point Christian Church up in Zionsville, I just had a feeling that I needed to call him. He’s been a big part of my life with some tough things that I had before. I asked if he thought that he had anybody that I could possibly talk to. He gave me Dan’s email and an email turned into a phone call and a phone call turned into a contract. Two in-a-half to three years later, here we are.”
Veach’s email on that Friday in 2017 went noticed. Towriss, promised Veach he’d work on something through the weekend. By Sunday, a deal was in place. By Monday, a contract signed.
Veach’s dream of being an Indy Car racer was coming true. He in fact made the race in 2017 with one of Towriss’ business on his car. Veach, started 32nd and finished 26th.
Now that Towriss saw how big the race was, he and Veach wanted more. A week after the ‘500 was completed in 2017, he had a deal in place with Andretti Autosport. Veach, was now going to be a full time IndyCar driver in 2018 with one of the premiere teams in the series.
Towriss, put Group 1001 on his No. 26 Honda and away Veach went. He finished all 17 races as a rookie in 2018, including four top 10 finishes over his final six starts of the season.
For this season, Towriss wanted even more. With such a special relationship now, he went to Mark Miles and company to expand his exposure. With being a local Indiana business, he, Miles and Doug Boles worked out a deal for his company to now be the presenting sponsor of the Indy 500, as well as on the car for Veach too.
Here we are today.
“It’s special feeling knowing you were a part of it,” said Veach of Thursday’s unveiling. “I don’t take any credit for a lot of this. This is their decision. To be the force that got them into racing and to be representing them on and off the track and being a part of their partnership for the Indy 500 for the next four years is definitely exciting.”
Veach, had always kept a positive aspect on the whole journey. His will and desire allowed this to happen.
“If you want to make a difference you have to go out and try every single thing you possibly can,” Veach said. “If you want it bad enough, I think you won’t stop, especially when things look the darkest. I thought I was at the end of my road and that’s where everything changed.”
Veach said he and Dan hit it off with a “connection on a personal level.” Veach says that Towriss is always wanting to help in his community and help people around him with the opportunity to go out and better the world.
“He ended up having a passion for motorsports and I was able to awaken that.”
Veach, said that while there is extra pressure now, he’s excited to be a part of laying the foundation for fans to look back on this era of IndyCar as the start of something special.
“I think everything is pressure but pressure is a privileged. Being in this situation is very special. To be a part of this series in this era is exciting. You hear people talk about how this kind of racing was like in the 90’s and that was the golden age. Realistically, with how the growth that we’re seeing, in another five years, this is going to be the era that people are going to remember in 20 years. To be part of the proving ground of that as it grows is pretty exciting.”