When we checked in with new Andretti Autosport IndyCar driver Zach Veach two months ago in Sonoma, he was consuming 5,000 calories per day and had added 10 pounds of muscle to his tiny frame.
From his starting point of 118, the 135-pound Indy Lights terror has continued to increase his muscle mass as the offseason speeds toward the start of testing on January 8.
“The process has been nice and we’re getting to the end of trying to gain muscle and starting to focus on muscle endurance,” the Ohioan told RACER. “I’m still eating a ton, drinking a lot of protein shakes every day, and we’re getting me ready to go testing. I was about 128 pounds when we spoke at Sonoma, and I’m around 135 now, so that’s a pretty big number if you consider where we began.”
Veach’s 14-percent increase on the scale has been a necessary part of his graduation to the No. 26 Honda entry Takuma Sato brought to Victory Lane at the Indy 500. The sheer force required to wrangle a high-downforce IndyCar around road and street courses – all without the help of power steering – put the 22-year-old on this path to living in the gym.
“In the first two weeks, you notice it, and after a few months, the outside world starts to see it,” he said. “You walk into the Andretti shop and people say ‘Wow, you’ve gotten bigger,’ and that’s something I’m hearing now for the first time in my life. I’ve also gone up a shirt size.”
Asked if he was shopping for shirts sized extra-medium, Veach revealed he’s transitioned from extra-small to small.
“The weights that we’re doing now would have been impossible a year ago,” he added. “I’m starting to feel like I can get into my IndyCar and push for an entire race. I know it’s going to be really hard, but nothing like it was in my debut at Barber.”
Nominated by Ed Carpenter Racing to deputize for the injured JR Hildebrand at Barber Motorsports Park, Veach’s lack of muscle power made keeping up with the other IndyCar drivers all but impossible.
“That showed me where I needed to get myself to, and I feel like if I had to go back and to the race over again, it would be a much different story,” he said.
With the steady diet of vitamins, supplements, and roughage from the vegetable isle, Veach admits he’s become IndyCar’s most “regular” driver.
“It’s part of the process,” he said with a laugh.
And with his fast metabolism burning all the extra food and nutrients he’s wolfing down on a daily basis, Veach has established a love/hate relationship with some of items on his plate.
“That’s easy: mac and cheese,” he said of his favorite meal. “Going the other way, it’s broccoli. When I see that in front of me, I have to remember this is about the future…that’s the only way I can get through it.”
Veach, along with race engineer Garrett Mothersead and the rest of the No. 26 Honda program, will vie for Verizon IndyCar Season Rookie of the Year honors when the new season kicks off at St. Petersburg on March 11.