DETROIT – Long before Zach Veach went racing, he was intrigued by speed and how to go faster.
At just 4 years old, Veach’s father, Roger, bought him a four-wheeler with an electronic ignition.
“I did it for a reason – so I could turn down the speed,” Roger Veach explained at The Raceway at Belle Isle Park on Sunday. “I came home from work that day only to find Zach riding around the yard super-fast. When I got out of the car, he said, ‘Dad, I took the seat off and found a dial. I turned it and it goes faster and faster.’’’
That’s been the younger Veach’s approach to racing as he continues to rise through the Verizon IndyCar Series ranks in his rookie season with Andretti Autosport.
The driver with the choirboy looks and big smile from Stockdale, Ohio, has made every post a winner since he began showing his skills at the wheel of a go-kart at 12 and progressed to open-wheel racing via the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, which has taken him from the Pro Mazda championship to Indy Lights to a full season in the Verizon IndyCar Series this season.
This past weekend, Veach’s star continued to rise with consistent finishes of 12th and 13th place in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear doubleheader.
“I don’t take a single day for granted,” said Veach, who pilots the No. 26 Relay Group 1001 Honda. “I just try to keep growing as a driver.”
The 23-year-old is often the forgotten driver on the Andretti team, and that was in evidence at Belle Isle. Teammates Marco Andretti and Alexander Rossi won pole positions for the two races. Rossi led much of Sunday's race before teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay overtook him for the win.
Meanwhile, in just a handful of Indy car starts, including a fourth-place result at Long Beach in April, Veach has shown remarkable maturity behind the wheel.
Some simple advice from team owner Michael Andretti has been huge in his development.
“Michael tells me just to be patient,” Veach said. “I think Michael has always seen my path a lot better than I did. He knows it just takes time and he knows how I learn.”
Andretti has tempered Veach’s need for speed just a bit.
“Here, I want to be the fastest guy,” Veach said. “Michael keeps reminding me constantly, ‘Dude, you are doing a good job; stop pushing so hard.’”
Veach admitted he had learned plenty at Belle Isle over a two-race weekend, which tested every driver’s endurance and concentration.
He kept pace with teammate Marco Andretti much of Race 2 on Sunday, with Andretti finishing ninth.
“Him and I were having some fun,” said Veach. “I was out of push-to-pass and my tires were gone, so I lost two spots on the last lap. That’s kind of painful.”
Despite beating the likes of 2017 series champion Josef Newgarden and veterans James Hinchcliffe and Takuma Sato to the finish in Race 2, Veach vowed to come back to Belle Isle stronger next year.
“Look, I’m ready to do it all over again,” he said. “But the main thing is, honestly, it was a really tough race weekend and halfway during the second one, I wasn’t keeping up with the car as well as I would like to. I think that is some of the reason we started having some drop-off. I’ve got to get a little stronger physically.”
Veach and the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers head to Texas Motor Speedway this week for the DXC Technology 600. NBCSN has live coverage of both qualifying (4 p.m. ET Friday) and the 248-lap race (8 p.m. Saturday).