Zach Veach is a man on a mission.
The talented 21-year-old, driving for Belardi Auto Racing, is in the midst of a comeback season after not competing in 2015, and has recently put himself back into the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires championship conversation following his standout win June 23 at Road America.
Winning in Wisconsin has become habit for Veach. His last win came in August 2014 at the historic Milwaukee Mile, making his long-awaited return to Victory Lane all the more special.
“I'm starting to think there's something special about that state,” Veach said. “You know, now that I have a pole and a win at Milwaukee and a pole and a win at Road America, I'm thinking maybe I need to move up there.
“The win at Road America was so emotional for us because, (in) 2015, we didn't have a ride due to funding issues and injuries. So to come back and finally put things together and get to the point we needed to be to get to Victory Lane is very relieving to me.”
Veach reflected on his standout year in 2014 when he finished third in the standings – just 27 points behind champion Gabby Chaves – and admitted that he didn’t know what to expect when he was able to return to Indy Lights.
“Overall, you spend so much time and kind of worry about where you can end up when you do come back,” Veach said. “For me, we kind of got to the top of our momentum curve in 2014.
“We had three wins, four poles and almost an Indy Lights championship, so I was feeling very on top of my game and very ready to move on to the Verizon IndyCar Series. When you take a year off like that and stop the ball from rolling in motion completely, it's very hard to come back from.
“So we are really hoping we should come back with that momentum that we had before and I feel if we finally have that rolling again in our favor.”
It was during his time off that the Ohio native was able to see racing in a different way, joining the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network as a color analyst.
“I'm really excited and happy to be involved with them,” Veach said. “Everyone at the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network is just a great group of friends.
“Broadcasting has allowed me to see racing from a completely new angle and I think that's even helped me as well. Not only has that made the relationship with people who get our stories out there, but I definitely understand what people are doing for us away from the track. They are there for us, to get our message to people and it's really special to me.”
The experience has resonated so well with Veach that he is looking at the broadcast booth beyond his racing career.
“I think one day if there comes a point where I'm hanging it up (as a driver), I'll definitely be on their side, sharing my message through the radio or TV,” Veach added.
That thought is on hold as Indy Lights prepares to do battle at Iowa Speedway this weekend, a place familiar to Veach. He believes his experience on the fast 0.894 of a mile oval – he has raced one time each on the track in Pro Mazda and Indy Lights – will pay off.
“Usually my third year back to places is when I start to do well, so hopefully things go in our favor,” Veach said. “I think we have a car in a good place and a good starting spot for the weekend, but I think we just need a couple of small adjustments to get it to where we need for qualifying. I seriously think that experience is going to help us leap to the front and help us plan to be or need to be to finish a race off.”
Veach enters the race weekend sixth in the Indy Lights standings, just 45 points shy of first with eight races remaining.
“We definitely need another win to keep us going in this championship,” the driver of the No. 5 Dallara IL-15 said, “but I don't think it's out of the question, for sure.”