Zach Veach isn’t sure if Firestone Indy Lights driver Carlos Munoz is aware that Veach took his No. 26 Andretti Autosport car out to Putnam Park Raceway for a test drive, but he is certainly grateful.
“Yeah, drivers don’t really like to share their cars, so I have to thank him. I think he knows, but if not … I’m not going to break the news,” Veach joked.
The teen from Stockdale, Ohio, went through a one-day test at the 1.8-mile road course 30 miles west of Indianapolis for his first time in the larger, more powerful machine. He became the first driver that has competed at the first two levels of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system to test in a Firestone Indy Lights car.
Currently competing in the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear, Veach has recorded two podiums and seven top-10 finishes in 2012, including a second place on the streets of Toronto, with five races to go. He graduated from the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda in 2011 after two seasons in which he finished in the top five in the standings.
“It’s a very special feeling for me because I wouldn’t be able to drive a Firestone Indy Lights car if it wasn’t for the Mazda Road to Indy,” Veach said. “Being in USF2000 for 2010 and 2011, and having the experience of getting so far this year in Star Mazda, every little bit has prepared me to drive a Firestone Indy Lights car. Being quick in my first day, or somewhat quick in my first day, I really have a lot to thank of Dan Anderson and Gary Rodrigues in both series, and everybody that’s a part of the Mazda Road to Indy.”
If he were to move into Firestone Indy Lights in 2013, Veach would be the beginning of the first wave of drivers to make their way up the full ranks of the Mazda Road to Indy since the scholarship program debuted in 2010. Other drivers who have spent time in both USF2000 and Star Mazda include Veach’s teammate Sage Karam, Colombian Juan Piedrahita and Finland’s Petri Suvanto.
“Watching Zach take another step toward continuing his movement up the Mazda Road to Indy is special because it’s exactly what the ladder system is all about,” Firestone Indy Lights director Tony George Jr. said. “He’s seen success in USF2000 and Star Mazda, and we’ve watched him develop both on and off the track. Not only is he talented in a race car, he’s also built a recognizable brand for himself, which is very important in motorsports. It’s very apparent that we have some huge talent in Star Mazda this year, and we’re looking forward to having many such drivers join Firestone Indy Lights in the near future.”