DAYTON — Ohioan Zack Veach and England’s Jack Harvey are worlds apart when it comes to where their racing roots first sprouted. But the two rookies are in unison with how awe inspiring it is to be considered “Indy 500 drivers.”
Veach and Harvey were at the Brixx Ice Company restaurant in downtown Dayton as part of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ national media tour May 23, to help promote Sunday’s May 28 Indianapolis 500. Veach may hail from the southern Ohio farmland, and Harvey may have got his racing start in Europe, but both 2017 rookies admitted to being in awe of the famed Brickyard — the world famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway — and the excitement that goes along with competing in the world’s biggest auto race.
After the hectic weekend of qualifying, Veach said he was able to leave the track and catch a movie at his apartment.
“It felt like each day you were at the track, the more bottled up you got,” the native of Stockdale, Ohio said. “I finally got away from it for a little bit and it felt nice. Like ‘Oh! Okay, there’s a whole other life going on outside the racetrack. … Then you starting thinking again ‘Yep, Sunday is going to be the biggest day of our lives.’”
“Yeah, I definitely feel the extra pressure when you say it like that,” Harvey chimed in, drawing laughs.
Both drivers worked their way up from the early open-wheel ranks of the sport, in go-karting. Harvey competed in British Formula 3 racing and eventually came across the Atlantic Ocean to race in the Indy Lights Series, the under card series to the IndyCar Series.
Veatch began in go-karts at age 12, then worked his way up through the U.S. F2000 series, the Star Mazda Championship series and then he, too, raced in Indy Lights. In 2014, Veach finished third in the Indy Lights points standings behind current IndyCar driver Gabby Chaves and … Harvey.
Both drivers now live in the Indianapolis area, and both have realistic hopes for Sunday’s race.
“For me, and I think for Jack as well. He’s just starting a couple rows in front of me. We’re in a good place where we should be safe to get through Turn 1, and we get to start our race at our own pace,” Veach said. “I mean, it’s different if you’re 14th and in the middle of everything as you’re going through Turn 1.
“I think we should have a little less pressure in getting through Turn 1 cleanly. If something happens, we just gotta be eyes up and ready for it.”
Veach will begin the race from the 32nd position in the 33-car field, on the inside of Row 11. Harvey did his best to take a positive from starting the race on the outside of Row 9.
“The big thing people have said to me is ‘Don’t go a lap down. Just stay on the lead lap.’ Basically, it doesn’t really matter where you start, as long as your car feels good,” he said. “It’s the last 40 laps of the (200-lap) race, just around that last pit stop time. If you’re still on the lead lap, there’s something that could go your way.”
A year ago, rookie Alexander Rossi got a draft from Townsend Bell, which enabled him to take one fewer pit stop than heavyweight hitters like three-time winner Helio Castroneves and former winners Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Rossi shocked almost everybody and won last year’s 100th running of the race.
A good fuel strategy, a break here or there, and who knows? Maybe Harvey or Veach could do the same.
The 101st running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing begins at 11 a.m. Sunday on ABC. Some tickets to the race are still available at IMS.com.
Contact John Bombatch at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.