LONG BEACH, CA - Andretti Autosport K12 driver Zach Veach made left-side contact with the retaining wall on the frontstretch when second-place starter Jack Hawksworth made wheel-to-wheel contact with Veach's #12 Andretti Autosport machine on Lap 1, ending both of their days in the Long Beach 100. Veach was credited with P9 overall.
Obviously he could tell in a way that I was gaining on him. I felt that we were going to get him going into Turn 1. I kept gaining on him and he kept trying to muscle me to the wall. At that point I was to a spot that I couldn't lift.
I was to the wall so I gave him as room as I absolutely could."
Veach opened the Long Beach race weekend by visiting nearly 1,000 Long Beach elementary students, sharing his message of pursuing your dreams while also keeping check with your education. He then joined the IZOD IndyCar Series drivers in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach's annual Media Luncheon before getting on the course for his first visit to Long Beach on Fri., April 19.
Turning 23 laps in his first trips around the temporary course, Veach was eighth quick in the only session on Friday having a rather difficult time finding the necessary speed to break the top five giving his use of tires with high mileage left over from Barber Motorsports Park, where he turned the fastest lap of the Firestone Indy Lights Legacy 100.
"Where we ended up today wasn't necessarily a bad thing," Veach was quoted as saying following Friday practice. "I think that we were running around eighth position at the end of our run. Last week we lost a right rear tire, and that hurt our tire program setting up for Long Beach.
Most the guys started today on tires that had about 10 miles on them, and I was using tires that had about 80. We were working with what we had, and we made some really good changes during our first practice session. I think that we are going to be a lot further up the grid once we all get on the same tires. I just want to thank everyone for working so hard.
None of this would be possible if it weren't for K12. I am really looking forward to using the on-board camera, and hope to put on a great show for everyone watching this weekend."
Saturday opened with a marine layer of fog on the course with Veach turning 25 laps, good enough for fourth quick on the speed charts heading into afternoon qualifications.
The Indy Lights qualifying session was a 45-minute all-skate, with drivers ranked by their quickest overall lap-any time during the session with no limit on the number of trips around the course. With about 30 minutes into the session, Veach topped the speed charts. His Andretti Autosport teammate Carlos Munoz knocked him from the Sunoco Pole Award with just four minutes remaining.
Veach then moved to second until Hawksworth set the second fastest lap as the checkered flag flew, which would then see Veach starting third for Sunday's Long Beach 100. Veach's qualifying effort was his best starting position in Firestone Indy Lights, trumping his previous best effort of fifth. The top six qualifiers were separated by less than .9 of a second.
"This is my first time coming here to Long Beach," said Veach following qualifications. "I spent a lot of the day learning a lot on how to get up to speed with the car. This place can be very unforgiving in a lot of ways. You can be going very quick through such a low grip place, and one small mistake can lead you into the wall.
This is a very tough track to drive physically,but even tougher mentally with all the walls around you. We learned a lot and qualified P3, and we will do what we can tomorrow morning."
When the green flag flew for the Long Beach 100, Veach had started from the third position behind Hawksworth, who took him out on Lap 1.
During Hawksworth's post-race quote released to the media, he was quoted as saying he thought he had cleared the inside for the first lap and that he admitted fault for taking Veach and fellow driver Peter Dempsey out of the race. Veach's Andretti Autosport teammate Carlos Munoz was the eventual race winner.
Round 4 of the 2013 Firestone Indy Lights season will be the Firestone Freedom 100 at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Veach set an unofficial new track record on the F1 course in late 2012 while preparing to join the Indy Lights series in 2013.
The Freedom 100 race is set on Indy 500's Coors Light Carb Day on Fri., May 24 at 11:00 a.m. EDT. Qualifications and practice will precede the race on Thurs., May 23.
Prior to that Veach will visit Disneyland's Cars Land for a special tour as well as test at Autoclub Speedway before returning to the Midwest late this week. He will then participate in the 500 Festival's Mutt Strut and along with Andretti Autosport teammate James Hinchcliffe, introduce musicians Gavin DeGraw and Jon McLaughlin as part of the 500 Festival REV Your Engines free concert on Sat., April 27 on Indianapolis' Monument Circle. Shortly thereafter, he'll be made aware if he is Larry King's next big interview.
This season Veach is competing for the $1 million Mazda Road to Indy scholarship to move up to the IZOD IndyCar Series and attempt to qualify for the famed Indianapolis 500 in 2014. He'll also be competing for "Rookie of the Year" honors among a promising class that includes Jack Hawksworth, Gabby Chaves, and former teammate Sage Karam, all of whom he competed against in Star Mazda in 2012.
In addition to K12, Veach's Firestone Indy Lights effort is also supported by: The Young Marines, ADS IT Solutions, Zakosi Data Backup, Replay XD, OMP, Bell Helmets, and Art Rotondo.
Sanctioned by INDYCAR, the Firestone Indy Lights is one of three series part of the Mazda Road to Indy developmental ladder system, designed to prepare drivers for the IZOD IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500. Andretti Autosport is currently the only INDYCAR team to compete in each level of the Mazda Road to Indy as well as the IZOD IndyCar Series.