Veach’s Progression Gives Vasser Sullivan Double Threat for Detroit
Mark Robinson | IMSA
The spotlight at Vasser Sullivan Racing has shone mainly on the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3 in recent seasons, with good reason. But the sister No. 12 has begun garnering more attention, particularly with the development of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship rookie co-driver Zach Veach.
It gives Vasser Sullivan a potent one-two punch heading to this week’s Chevrolet Sports Car Classic at Detroit’s Raceway at Belle Isle Park, where the team pulled off a 1-3 finish in 2019, the last time the event was held.
Partnered with Frankie Montecalvo, Veach brought the No. 12 home in second place last month in the GT Daytona (GTD) class at the Acura Sports Car Challenge Presented by the TLX Type S. It was just Veach’s third GTD start and came at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – a fitting location for the Ohio native transitioning this year from a career previously focused on IndyCar racing.
“It feels really nice to get my first podium in IMSA, and to do it at my home track on top of that is just really special,” Veach said following the race. “The last three years were tough for me, that’s no lie. To come here and have a good result feels so nice.”
Now 26, Veach dedicated himself to climbing the Road to Indy ladder to the IndyCar Series, reaching the top with three seasons at Andretti Autosport that concluded near the end of 2020. Veach put out feelers in the sports car world late last year and found a willing listener in Vasser Sullivan. Not a surprise since the team already had former open-wheelers Jack Hawksworth and Aaron Telitz in the fold.
“He’s damn good,” team co-owner Jimmy Vasser said of Veach. “If you notice, there’s a bit of a theme here with IndyCar guys and Road to Indy guys. The Road to Indy has produced a lot of great young talent and he’s a Gold (-rated driver). While his IndyCar career didn’t go great, it wasn’t terrible.”
Seeing the chance to get younger and stronger over the long run, the team hired Veach to replace wily veteran Townsend Bell. “We see that maybe the runway with Zach is a bit longer,” Vasser said.
“He didn’t start out right on pace, but nobody does in these cars,” Vasser added. “In GTD, you have the ABS (anti-lock braking system) to adapt to, they’re a heavier car, you’ve got to get used to the tires. It’s just a different form of racing nowadays, so it’s difficult for anybody to jump from the top of one class to another class and be quick right off the bat. Everything’s so specialized.”
Veach’s progress showed in the Mid-Ohio qualifying session for points when he ran second. He and Montecalvo appeared destined for a third-place finish in the race, only to see its stablemate, the No. 14 Lexus, suffer a mechanical failure while leading.
“The cool thing with Zach is his progression,” Vasser said. “It’s a real upward trend, culminating in a great performance in bringing it home second surrounded by champions of the class. He was under a lot of pressure but did not make a mistake.
“He’s been improving, he’s getting a feel for the car, he’s more vocal about what he wants and what the car’s doing. It’s just natural that the more time he’s in the car, the more he’s learning about his racing against guys that have been doing it a while. Jack, for instance, this is his fifth season in the (Lexus) car and he’s the best out there. Jack’s really coaching him and helping him.”
Saturday’s race at Belle Isle counts only toward the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup, where Hawksworth and Telitz are defending champions. Vasser said the No. 14 duo is “breathing fire right now” after the Mid-Ohio malady, and the team co-owner expects both cars to contend.
“We were first and third last time we raced there in ’19,” Vasser said. “We’re never overconfident because you never know what’s going to happen, but I’ve got full faith in the team that we’re going to be prepared for it.”
Along with GTD, the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class will compete this week for season championship points. The two Corvette Racing GT Le Mans cars will race as well but not for points. Action begins Friday at Belle Isle Park with practice and qualifying. The 100-minute race airs live at 5 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and IMSA Radio (Sirius 219, XM 202, SiriusXM Online 992).