Veach “100 percent confident” he’s ready to win oval IndyCar race
Andretti Autosport-Honda's IndyCar sophomore Zach Veach believes he’s ready to win an oval race in the NTT IndyCar Series but says he has more pace to find on road and street courses in qualifying.
Veach, who scored six Indy Lights wins 2015-’16, made two ‘one-off’ IndyCar entries in 2017, but only made his full-season debut last year with Andretti Autosport. Highlights were fourth in the Grand Prix of Long Beach and fifth at Gateway Motorsports Park.
Now the 24-year-old from Stockdale, OH., says his main aims are improving his pace on road and street courses and translating his oval pace into consistent results.
He said: “I think the main thing is to pick up where we left off. The whole goal in the second half of last year was to consistently be in the top 10. I think we were proving that the last half of the season.
“For me, I think it’s just getting comfortable on all different types [of track]. It’s easy to push and run close to these guys up front, but it’s hard to stay there. It’s about making sure you don’t make any mistakes by getting in too far.
“I feel we are in a good place now. The ovals, I feel 100 percent confident that I could win this year. I feel very strong. I think that’s our strongest hand right now.
“I still have a little improvement to make on the road and street courses as far as consistency and pure qualifying speed – finding that last two-tenths you need in qualifying. But, I feel like we’re closing the gap on that pretty fast.
“If we can have a year where we are consistently in the top 10 and breaking into the top five now and then – maybe even get that first win. Year three sets us up where we need to be.”
Veach cited Gateway as the race where he was most satisfied, when bad weather in practice and qualifying forced the series to line the cars up according to championship position.
“We had to start 16th,” said Veach, “but we had two great restarts. I think we made up five spots on the two restarts.
“I felt in control that weekend. I was planning the strategy ahead in my head, I made the decision to ditch fuel saving at the end and elected to push hard and get a splash-and-go.
“I felt complete. Even thought that was a fifth place. If one thing would have went differently, that could have been a win.
“I think that for me, that was the most complete driver I felt last year. That’s something I hope to keep replicating.”
Methodical approach to improvement
Veach says that he’s poring over data in the offseason, comparing his laptimes with those of his vastly more experienced teammates, seeing if, where and by how much he can improve.
“I must have spent a solid five weeks in the shop, doing my own data, doing my own notes,” he said. “I went back through every qualifying session and race with my own laptop, and my own set of Pi [Racing Data Logger] so I saw all the data.
“I took all my own screen shots and how it compares to my teammates and wrote down a study guide for each track.
“For example: ‘Turns 3 through 5 were good, Turn 6 is what was killing you, losing three-tenths in qualifying.’ For me, it’s cool, because when I show back up at St. Pete I know I don’t need to worry about [Turns] 1 through 3, but Turn 4 we have to improve, but the rest is OK.
“So now I have a hitlist of every track that I’m going to, to close that deficiency that I had last season.
“It’s a methodical approach. The same approach that took me from being seventh in [Indy Lights] to coming close to winning the championship. Same work ethic – put in the effort and results will come. I’m excited to see how that changes things.”
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