Zach Veach made his presence known during Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600 as comfort with his car — during what was expected to be a mostly uncomfortable race — allowed him to learn valuable lessons he’ll carry with him beyond the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway.
Sixty-three laps after starting 16th in his No. 26 Andretti Autosport-prepared Honda, the Ohio native joined the lead group at the front of the 22-car field as the first round of green-flag pit stops commenced.
After making his first visit to pit lane of the night on Lap 66, Veach ran in mid-pack positions until the daunting superspeedway reached out and grabbed him less than 30 laps later.
“Things started off really well,” Veach said after finishing 10 laps down to winner Scott Dixon. “We drove from 16th to third on the first stint which just showed what kind of car we had. It was the best car I’ve had in my career, the best car I’ve had in the Verizon IndyCar Series, so hats off to my engineer and the entire Relay/Group One Thousand One team.”
Minor contact with the Turn 2 wall caused Veach to drop from 11th on Lap 90 to 20th five laps later.
“The rookie side of me came in during the second stint,” Veach said of the incident. “I just got too high running through Turn 2 trying to get air. I got the right rear into the wall and bent a toe-link and went 10 laps down. From that point on, we were just fighting as hard as we could.”
With one car retiring due to a fire and five others not seeing the checkered flag as a result of contact, Veach was the last-placed car among the 16 that were running at the end as he returned to the same position he started.
As he slowed down to satisfy the pit lane speed limit during his aforementioned first stop of the night, Veach was passed at the entrance of pit lane by Dixon as the eventual winner continued to execute a flawless race.
It’s the gathering of knowledge, like how to be more efficient when entering the pits, that allows Veach to look back on his Texas race positively.
“I honestly think we had a car for the top five — possibly the top three,” he continued. “We passed everyone up to Dixon, basically, even though we were laps down. That just shows the strength we had.
“My crew gave me something special and I just didn’t get the job done with it. But, you know, that’s learning.”
Though his time spent battling up front was limited, it helped Veach pair the physical comfort he experienced in his car with a mental one — a sense of belonging.
“For me, tonight it felt like a switch finally flipped,” he noted. “I felt like I can run with these guys and push them into the corners and not be afraid to take the way they drive on track. I put myself forward and stood up for myself, and that’s a big key in IndyCar. I finally feel confident enough to do that.”
Veach will carry his newfound confidence to Road America where his 10th IndyCar start and first at the classic road course will take place on June 24.