Work, Work, Believe – Dreams do Come True

By on April 12, 2014

2014 Indy Lights Streets of St. Petersburg Champion (photo Rodney Meyering / RSEN)

St. Petersburg, Fla. – It was March 8th, 2011, but it seems like just yesterday when I met Zach Veach at Andersen Race Park in Palmetto, Florida.

Just three years and days later Zach stands atop the podium in St. Petersburg as Indy Lights Streets of St . Petersburg Champion for 2014.

Back to March 2011, Rocket Sports & Entertainment Network was not quite even a year old yet and covering our first Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Firehawk, the Firestaone mascot,  gives a thumbs up here in the Indy Car victory circle in St. Pete with Will Power’s team. I see Firehawk hanging out with Zach Veach soon. (RSEN PHOTO)

Then the Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg, now Firestone, I love Firehawk, by the way.  Ok,  back to media kart day… It was also the first year of the annual media kart day.  The organizers of the Grand Prix put this event together as a great way for the media members to gain more insight into the sport of Indy Car and get personal with some of the drivers.

Each media outlet was to compete in a relay type race by driving karts around the track while changing drivers. Each team was assigned a professional driver as a teammate. It was then, when Kathleen Stelmach with Torchia Communications, the public relations firm for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg,  said, “Rick, your driver is Zach Veach,” was the first time I heard his name.  When I was able to  introduce myself to Zach, I knew in an instant he was a special person.  Zach was so for real and down to earth that he had a genuine caring for our team.  This teenager, only 16 years old at the time, had the poise of a seasoned veteran.   Speaking on behalf of my teammates that day,  we instantly felt as ease about racing the karts.

Our team consisting of myself, Rodney Meyering and Wendy Eckhardt would go on to finish 2nd place that day just 45 seconds behind the team with Indy Car driver Alex Tagliani, but most importantly we met Zach Veach.

 

The day we met Zach. It was all Zach that day, although in his heart he gave us all the credit (RSEN file photo 3/11/11)

Zach Veach had an immediate positive impression upon me. Here is a young teen mature beyond his years with a gentle nature,  but with an aggressive passion for racing.   At just 16 years old I felt like I was talking to a young adult that was more mature than most in their twenties I knew.

The the more I found out about Zach Veach it all made sense.  At this time Zach already authored his first book,  “99 Things Teens Wish They Knew Before Turning 16”  ,  was named a spokesperson FOCUS DRIVEN which advocates non cell phone use during driving, made appearance with Larry King and a another with Oprah Winfrey.  In 2010 CNN named Zach to the CNN list of most intriguing people.

At this time in 2011, Zach was racing in the USF 2000 series which is the entry level to the Mazda Road to Indy.  The Mazda Road to Indy is  what you could say is the minor leagues of Indy Car.  The four levels are like the path to Major League Baseball.  For analogy purposes only,  USF 2000 being rookie A, Pro Mazda being AA, Indy Lights being AAA and “the show” (which means you reached the top of the sport) is Indy Car.

Zach was gracious enough to make two appearances on my radio show in 2011, one in March just before St. Petersburg when he was so excited just before racing  in St. Pete.  He said, “I have always looked at St. Pete as the Indianapolis of road courses so being able to race here is like a dream come true.”  The USF 2000 race in 2011 would be Zach’ s first race on a street course.  Zach gives a lot of credit to his Dad, Roger,  who has dedicated a lot of time being by the side of his favorite driver.

Zach Veach Radio Interview Aug 26, 2011 RSEN

(Great photo of Zach and his Dad by Dirk Shadd via Twitter)

Zach quickly moved through Star Mazda / Pro Mazda into Indy Lights for 2013.  At this point the word phenom must at least be entered into conversation.

Zach Veach in the Star Mazda Race on the streets of St. Petersburg on March 30th 2012. Facing adversity, it was not all blue skies and yellow-brick roads as he finished 17th. (photo by Rodney Meyering / RSEN file photo)

 

Zach finished 7th overall last year (2013)  in Indy Lights with his only podium finish in Milwaukee at third. This was not good enough for Veach.  His passion and drive for his trade takes his mind to the next level.  Zach felt his strength and endurance needed to improve so he committed in the off season to work extra hard to improve his strength.  While most athletes would bask in the moment Zach Veach is always thinking “next level.” Veach also mentioned he runs miles a day to increase stamina.

This 2014 victory for Veach in the AAA of Indy Car means the fast track continues, no pun intended, well maybe a slight one, he is fast and drives on a track.  Zach Veach is on it to reach Indy Car next year.  Zach mentioned there was some talk of  maybe some Indy Car this year at the Indianapolis 500,  but team management I’m sure wants to be cautiously optimistic with their rising new star.

Ah yes, speaking of team management, Zach races on the Andretti Autosport team, a team with a surname that screams racing victories. Anything racing with the name Andretti in it,  I’m all about.  The team has won multiple championships at all levels (refer to my rookie, AA, AAA analogy three paragraphs above).  You know, I firmly believe the universe brings success to those who are positive and believe that you will be delivered exactly what you need, if you work hard enough, you will achieve your goals.  This is what I see in Zach Veach.   As Zach has applied his trade, his goal has always been to be an Indy Car driver and race in the Indianapolis 500. His racing hero, you guessed it Michael Andretti.  Ah, you see, the universe is working very smoothly for Zach Veach and Andretti Autosport.   The most respected name in racing and a kid with talent, hard work ethic and a dream, storybook.

Michael Andretti has a lot to smile about… “Zach has been with the team through every step of the Mazda Road to Indy – to see him add an Indy Lights win to his list of accomplishments was just great. He has worked so hard to get to this point in his career. We’re proud of him and optimistic that this is just the first of many.” – MICHAEL ANDRETTI (photo USA TODAY Sports / Brian Spurlock)

After a dominate performance in St. Petersburg,  Zach reminds all of us remaining humble is the way to go.  “It’s just a win, the first race.  I have to stay consistent throughout the entire season,” Zach said as he addressed the media post-race.  The confident but humble Veach made me realize his goals are much bigger than just the top podium spot in St. Petersburg.

At the green, Zach passed Gabby Chaves the pole sitter in turn one and never looked back, well maybe a few glances in the rear view mirror. Zach led all 45 laps taking the checkered flag ahead of Chavez by five seconds and 16 seconds ahead of 3rd place Jack Harvey of England.

 

FLAG TO FLAG: Zach started in second for the 2014 Indy Lights Streets of St. Petersburg and was there for oh maybe ten seconds. Zach passed Gabby Chaves the pole sitter in turn one and never looked back, well maybe a few glances in the rear view mirror. Zach led all 45 laps taking the checkered flag by around five seconds. (photo Rodney Meyering / RSEN)

The Indy Lights winner’s circle was abuzz with excitement and bustle.  On my way to the media area of the circle I bumped into Andretti

“They’re bringing “Veachie” over here, right?” –  Marco Andretti (Wendy Eckhardt / RSEN PHOTO)

Autosport’s Indy Car driver Marco Andretti, Marco said, “They’re bringing “Veachie” over here, right?”  I said,  I hope so that’s why I am here.  As I stood there waiting for Zach to be brought over for the victory celebration, I thought back to the past couple years in the Indy Lights winner’s circle and there was just more excitement this 2014 and it was fueled by the fan favoritism for young Zach Veach.  Zach is a young man that seems to bring the best out in everyone.

At the time of publishing of this article it is the eve of the Indy Lights of the Streets of Long Beach and Zach is sitting on the pole, the storybook continues…  We are pulling for the Veach victory in So. Cal and you should be too.  I am sure of one thing, win, lose or draw the racing world, sports world and USA are better places with athletes like Zach Veach in them.

This is Rick Sassone and I’ll see you at the track!

Zach Veach accepting the Race Energy BCM21 charger. Race Energy is the Official Battery Charger of he Mazda Road to Indy (photo Rodney Meyering / RSEN)

 RACE ENERGY and MAZDA ROAD TO INDY

The photo I mentioned in the radio interview with Zach… The Legendary Mario Andretti visits with successful owner Chip Ganassi on pit road pre-race. (Photo by Rodney Meyering)

At Andersen Race Park in Palmetto, Florida in March 2011 I sensed this guy was just getting started (photo Rodney Meyering / RSEN)

at Andersen Race Park in March 2011 Zach gets a lift from Indy Car driver Alex Tagliani. (photo Rodney Meyering / RSEN)

 2014 INDY LIGHTS SCHEDULE with NBC SPORTS NETWORK BROADCAST SCHEDULE

ROUND DATE TRACK VENUE tv – NBC SPORTS NETWORK
1 March 30 Streets of St. Petersburg 1.8 Mile Street Circuit APRIL 4TH 4:00 PM ET
2 April 13 Streets of Long Beach 1.968 Mile Street Circuit APRIL 13TH 2:30 PM ET
3 and 4 April 26 & 27 Barber Motorsports Par 2.3 Mile Road Course APRIL 27TH 5:30 PM ET
5 and 6 May 9 & 10 Indianapolis Motor Speedway 2.434 Mile Road Course TBA
7 May 23 Indianapolis Motor Speedway 2.5 Mile Oval MAY 23RD 12 PM ET
8 July 5 Pocono Raceway 2.5 Mile Oval JULY 6TH 4:00 PM ET
9 July 20 Streets of Toronto 1.755 Mile Street Circuit JULY 20TH 6:00 PM ET
10 and 11 August 2 & 3 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course 2.258 Mile Road Course AUGUST 3RD 6:00 PM ET
12 August 17 The Milwaukee Mile 1.015 Mile Oval AUGUST 17TH 6:00 PM ET
13 and 14 August 23 & 24 Sonoma Raceway 2.385 Mile Road Course AUGUST 24TH 7:00 PM ET

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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