Storyline: “I know many people will be pulling for me back home,” said Zach Veach. “I’m going to do all I can do make our little town proud.”
May 28 is the day Zach Veach’s dream will come true. The day can’t come fast enough—and Zach wants to go really fast on that day. Why? The 22-year-old will run in his first Indianapolis 500.
“It’s something I have dreamed about since I was four,” Zach said. “I’m so excited about this opportunity of a lifetime.”
Zach, who first started racing go carts at age 12 in Circleville, Ohio, joined AJ Foyt Racing this month and will make his rookie debut in the 101st running of the 500.
“I think he will make a fine young rookie,” Foyt said. “He was very good in the smaller cars and I think he can graduate up to the Indy cars pretty quick.”
Zach was in Long Beach, CA when the racing legend talked to him about joining his race team. “He’s very focused. He was watching every move the guys were doing at Long Beach, as well as watching everything going on at the Indy test,” Foyt added. “When somebody pays attention that closely, it’s because they want to do good and I think he will do good.”
When the first-ever, four-time Indy 500 champ gives you a chance to participate in the greatest spectacle in racing, you don’t hesitate. “I was just so humbled he gave me this chance,” Zach said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have a solid reputation around the drivers and they know I’ve been dreaming of this opportunity.”
AJ Foyt’s son, Larry, had developed a friendship with Zach and knew that the Stockdale, Ohio native was looking for a ride in the 500. At the same time Foyt Racing was thinking about adding a third car to the field. So it was a natural fit.
Zach’s car will be No. 40. It was 40 years ago when AJ Foyt won his fourth checkered flag–and he was the first driver to ever do so. “It’s a big privilege for me to have that number,” he said.
Zach has to qualify for the race but, since there are only 33 slots and 33 entrants, the odds are obviously in his favor. The only remaining hurdle was to come up with a sponsor. The Ladies’ Professional Golf Association (LPGA) stepped up and met Zach’s need.
It’s because the LPGA has added a new tournament this year, “The Indy Women In Tech Championship,” sponsored by Guggenheim. “The car sponsorship will help bring recognition to the tour stopping here in September,” Zach said. “I’m very grateful they are going to be my sponsor.”
So it looks like Zach’s dream will come true. “It’s such a special place,” he said. “I’m so thrilled to be living out my dream and racing here. And I’ve been busting my butt to make it happen.”
“You keep telling yourself it’s going to happen,” he continued, “and you sacrifice so much in your life and go on blind faith. When you finally get that chance, it’s such a relief.”
But Zach also knows he must perform in the biggest race of his young career. So he plans to spend as much time as possible with his mechanics and engineers to prep the car. “I have to know this car inside and out,” he said. “I’m dedicated to showing them what I can do on the track.” He’ll also spend each morning working with his personal trainer to get into top physical shape.
Up to this point Zach’s biggest achievement was also at Indianapolis–at The Indy Lights Series–the highest level of junior racing in America. Last year he was the first Indy Lights driver to average more than 200 mph at the Speedway. “Any time you can make history here, it’s special,” he said.
Although Zach will soon realize his dream he doesn’t lose sight of his beginnings in a rural Southern Ohio town of about 150 people. “I’ve always had great people around me,” he said. “My father encouraged and helped me at a young age. He always told me anything is possible and I’m finding that out now.”
On May 28 all of Stockdale and Minford OH will be cheering for Zach and No. 40. “I know that many people will be pulling for me back home,” he said. “I have a wonderful support system there. I’m going to do all I can do make our little town proud.”
Del Duduit is an award-winning writer and freelancer who lives in Lucasville, Ohio. You can follow him at his blog and on Twitter @delduduit.