Zach Veach, a six-time race winner in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires competition, will make his Verizon IndyCar Series debut this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park as a substitute driver for injured JR Hildebrand.
Ed Carpenter Racing announced today that Veach, the 22-year-old from Stockdale, Ohio, will fill in for Hildebrand in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by America’s First.
HONDA INDY GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA: Entry list
A bone in Hildebrand’s left hand was broken April 9 in a final-lap incident during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Surgery was performed April 11 on the hand and Hildebrand continues to mend.
"This obviously is not how I had hoped this would play out, but I've done everything there was to do since surgery last Tuesday with good results,” Hildebrand said. “It seems the risk is still too high given the initial extent of the injury. “The doctors I've worked with have been awesome to get my fractures sorted out and I trust their view of the situation.”
Hildebrand said he still plans to attend the Barber race to assist Veach and the team from the pits. The 29-year-old Californian, who had 13th- and 11th-place finishes in the first two races of the season, hopes to return to competition in the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix on April 29 at Phoenix Raceway.
Meanwhile, ECR continues its pattern of bringing in young American talent by giving the nod to Veach, whose first time in an Indy car came in No. 21 Chevrolet during a test at Sonoma Raceway in September. Veach won three Indy Lights races last year for Belardi Auto Racing on his way to a third-place finish in the championship. Veach has already been confirmed to drive in this year’s Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil for fellow Chevrolet-powered team AJ Foyt Racing.
“My heart goes out to (Hildebrand) as I suffered a broken hand a couple years ago and I wouldn't wish that upon anyone,” Veach said. “This isn't how any driver wants to get his first race, but with that said, I'm extremely thankful for the opportunity to sub for JR.
“Ed (Carpenter) gave me my first chance to test an Indy car a few months ago. It’s going to be very special for me to be back in that same car representing Fuzzy's Vodka at Barber,” continued Veach. “It's going to be a lot to take in in a short amount of time, but I'm really excited to do the best I can for the team, as well as JR.”
Veach’s teammate this weekend is Spencer Pigot, driver of ECR’s No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevy on road and street courses. Pigot, the 2015 Indy Lights champion, has not competed in a Verizon IndyCar Series race at Barber Motorsports Park. Veach did win at Barber in Indy Lights in 2014, the same year Pigot won two Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires races. Pigot returned the following year to sweep the Indy Lights doubleheader on the 2.3-mile permanent road course.
Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama action begins with two practices Friday (11:45 a.m. and 3:25 p.m. ET). A third practice is scheduled for noon ET Saturday, ahead of Verizon P1 Award knockout qualifying at 4:15 p.m. (NBCSN telecast begins at 4:30 p.m.). Live race coverage of the 90-lap race begins at 3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.