Late nights belong to the youth and Zach Veach certainly proved that after marching towards his best finish of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season at Iowa Speedway.
Mother Nature decided the Iowa 300 wouldn’t run until roughly 11:50 p.m. ET – 4.5 hours later than the estimated original start time. That was just fine with Veach, though, as the driver of the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda for Andretti Autosport methodically charged from 20th on the grid to seventh.
However, the race nearly never even came to be for Veach.
While the cars were being prepped in their pit boxes in the lead up to the grid formation, his team found a problem with the fuel system and was forced to push the car back behind the wall for repairs. Luckily, the team managed to make fast work of the issue, allowing Veach a chance to repay the effort on track.
“It's just relieving in a little way, but there is still a lot more work to be done,” Veach said.
“I just can't thank my crew enough. They found the fuel leak. We had a puddle in our pit box as we were pushing to the grid. They identified exactly what it was and worked extremely quick and got me back to the grid with the 10 minute call to get suited and put in.
“So really, this is for them. If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't have had tonight.”
As it typically goes, racing under the lights provided plenty of intensely tight racing and close moments. The high amount of tire degradation put a bigger emphasis on track position and restarts. The 24-year-old from Stockdale, Ohio had his fair share of close moments climbing through the field.
“It was just one of those things where you had to be the most aggressive person without going over it to get the spots,” he said.
“We had one restart in there (on Lap 200), I think the third to the last, that we dove to the inside of (Turn) 3 and I honestly thought our race was over. But luckily, I came together with my teammate, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and he kind of saved both of us because it was such a tight corner.
“That's just the way short track racing is - you're going to be wheel-to-wheel and touching each other every now and then.”
The result marks just the third top-10 finish for Veach this year and first since scoring a pair of eighth-place finishes last month on the streets of Detroit at Belle Isle. While there is still a lot left to be desired, the resolve displayed in the twilight hours helped to slightly relax a team plagued by tough luck and uncharacteristic mistakes.
“Sophomore slump is exactly what it was and still is,” added Veach, who has a career-best finish of fourth (Long Beach, 2018).
“I felt like we've had the pace, we've had the execution. It's just little things have gone wrong, whether it be me or with the team or for whatever reason. Plus, you come into this year with a little more expectations, like you know a little more what you're doing. Yeah, it's just been tough.
“We've had to take a step back, kind of regroup and try just to find a little more patients, honestly.”
The plan now for Veach is to keep moving forward and try to put a positive stamp on this season, which he looks to do with the next round coming this weekend being his home race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
“We still want to get that podium and get a win, but we'll take what we have and go to Mid-Ohio,” he said. “We had a top 10 there last year and came close to qualifying in the (Firestone) Fast Six, so if we could add on to that, it would be amazing.”
The Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course includes a pair of Friday practices, practice and qualifying Saturday and Sunday's race (3:30 p.m. NBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. SiriusXM Channel 209 also has the coverage.