Zach Veach: My Fresh Start at Daytona
Zach Veach | Racer.com
This past weekend, the IMSA WeatherTech Championship Roar Before the 24 was my first as a full-on IMSA driver. I did an IMSA event back in 2015, but it was just a short sprint weekend at Laguna Seca so I don’t really even claim that one. After the past few days with Vasser Sullivan and Lexus, it’s been really cool to get my feet wet and really start to understand what sports car racing is all about.
I was lucky enough to be one of the guys that got to do the Motul 100 qualifying race, and when I got out of the car, I told the crew that was some of the most fun I’ve had in motorsports. That’s what makes me so excited for this next chapter of my career.
There’s so much to consider and come to grips with for my first endurance race. I’m wondering how I’m going to feel Sunday night. Luckily, I have a ton of experience around me with my Vasser Sullivan team. Frankie Montecalvo, Townsend Bell, Jack Hawksworth and Oliver Gavin have been through this race a few times, so I’ve really leaned on them, just asking what to expect, especially from Oliver. He was talking about when he was a young driver, he would pop out of the car at midnight and would still be amped up, so he would sit on the timing stand for an hour and a half, only to realize that in 30 minutes he was back in the car. His best advice was, after a stint, debrief with the engineer for 15 minutes, then get away — whether that’s going back to the bus to get some sleep, or trying to get some food. You need to give yourself that mental break before you’re back in the car in a few hours.
As you might have read here at RACER, I did a bit of rock climbing last year in Yosemite. One thing I learned then that I can apply now is that we have to work without haste. Everything needs to be methodical. Sometimes going slow and methodical is better than fast and panic.
We’ve all been talking about the things that can happen during the race. Contact can put you a lap behind until hopefully something happens to get it back. Or, you get a penalty and have to sit in the penalty box for three and a half minutes. We experienced that last weekend. There are so many ways to throw it away. So it’s really important to think twice before making a decision. What’s the worth of each pass? An hour and a half into the 24, if you’re really fighting with someone or trying to defend a position, maybe it’s better to let them go. We need to think big picture and not allow ourselves to get caught up in these small battles. That’s important for me because now I’m sharing a car. It’s a lot more of “we” than “me” that the open-wheel world tends to be.
The Indy 500 is a race of staying on the lead lap until about two stops to go before you start pushing. The Rolex 24 At Daytona is kind of the same mindset, but instead of dealing with five or six pit stops before going all-out to the finish, there’s 22 hours to get through first.
All I want is to do my best for my teammates, the Vasser Sullivan crew and Lexus to take care of the RC F GT3 and deliver it to those final hours of the race. If we do, maybe there’s a new timepiece at the end of it.