Zach Veach says that his switch to sports car racing with Vasser Sullivan has made him the happiest he’s been in “a really long time” as the open-wheel ace gets ready for his GT Daytona class debut in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The 26-year-old Ohio native, who has spent the last three years with Andretti Autosport in the NTT IndyCar Series, has made the move to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for 2021 as a full-season driver in the No. 12 Lexus RC F GT3 alongside Frankie Montecalvo.
Veach, who made one previous WeatherTech Championship start in a JDC-Miller Motorsports Prototype Challenge entry in 2015, said that the timing was right to exit IndyCar at least on full-time basis.
“The more I sat and analyzed the last three years and started thinking about who I’ve grown into as a person and what has shifted as far as importance to me, IMSA kept looking more and more attractive,” Veach said.
“With the type of racing and type of driving it rewards, the kind of mentality IMSA drivers needs to have compared to the open-wheel world seemed like a really good fit for me in this time in my career.
“I was very lucky because there was just one place I wanted to be over here, with Jimmy and Sulli. And things worked out the right way where the opportunity made sense for both parties.
“For me it’s been really cool. Jack Hawksworth, with him being in the 14 [car], he’s a guy I raced a lot with in Pro Mazda and Indy Lights and our paths kinda diverged a little bit.
“For us to be back together with the same team is really fun.
“As well as Aaron Telitz. He and I worked together at Belardi a little bit as I was transitioning from there to IndyCar.
“There’s a lot of familiar faces here, which is a lot of fun. There’s also a ton of new faces I’m still trying to learn in these early days.”
Veach got his first laps in a GTD car at Daytona in December, followed up by an additional test at Carolina Motorsports Park that he said was crucial in getting adapted to the car.
“There’s still a lot to learn but for me the biggest thing is trying to understand the ABS,” Veach explained.
“You can really manipulate the car in a way that you cannot get away with in an open-wheel car. You’d be penalized right away.
“That was more so like flipping a switch in your brain in what feels right vs. what’s right.
“I’ve been able to be in the sim and have six full sim days. Jack and I were actually pushing each other on the sim and matching times and fighting within a few tenths of each other.
“I feel confident in that sense but there’s still a big chunk to learn. But I’m feeling a lot better than my first day in a sports car, that’s for sure.”
Veach said that his help from fellow open-wheel refugee Hawksworth has been crucial to his getting up to speed.
“I’ve had to lean quite a bit on Jack, just with his experience in this car,” he said. “He’s basically led the charge on its development for the last five-plus years.
“This is the happiest I’ve been in a really long time. I’m so excited for the future of what this year is going to be with this team. Obviously to get to do my first Rolex is going to be a ton of fun.
“The fun is back. I’m thankful for that and this opportunities and the opportunities that lie ahead for us all.”