Andretti Autosport’s rookie, Zach Veach, says his career best IndyCar result of fourth at Long Beach was a strong result but says he needs to give himself less work by qualifying better.
Veach, who started only 16th, was on a two-stop strategy but 17 laps run under caution eased any worries over fuel saving, so he could not only hold off Graham Rahal but also challenge Ed Jones for a podium finish.
He told Motorsport.com: “The way we’re looking at the season is that it’s all about learning, so the two-stop strategy was always the plan. We’re trying to do something to save a little fuel so I can get that experience and things just lined up perfectly for us. Our race pace was decent – and it has been all year.
“The big problem is qualifying, when it comes to putting that complete lap together. I keep getting 80 percent of it right, but I miss advancing out of Q1 because of little things. I’ve gotta make my job easier at Barber by qualifying further up.
“But this result is a little bit of a relief. When we took the green with nine to go, I wanted to do my best to push Ed, and I think we had a stronger couple of laps while the tires weren’t up to temperature, and we kept the pressure on.
“But then he put me out in the marbles at Turn 9, which I kind of invited him to by putting myself on his outside, so the next two laps I was just trying to clean my tires up again, and that allowed Rahal to put some heat on me.
“So at that point I thought, ‘We can push Jones and possibly not finish, or we can just keep Rahal at bay and take home a good finish and move on.’ So that was the decision I took with about five laps to go.”
The once-petite Veach, who had to work hard to get his fitness and body strength to IndyCar standard, said he felt physically fine after the race.
“Yeah, that was surprisingly OK,” he said. “St. Pete felt hard, Phoenix was easy but it’s an oval. And Long Beach on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say was about a six. So I think it’s just a case of my body getting used to it.”
Veach made his IndyCar race debut as a last-minute sub at Ed Carpenter Racing at Barber Motorsports Park last year, and noted the different physical demands of the cars with the manufacturer aerokits and the 2018 spec Dallara kits.
“It’s something we talk about a lot – is the new car less physical than the old one?” he said. “And in a way, yes, because the sheer strength it takes to drive the new car is less, but with a lot of downforce now gone, you’re also catching it three or four times every corner, so you’re getting more pumped. At the end of the day, you feel you’ve done the same amount of work.”