While the entire Verizon IndyCar Series field will battle weather elements on Sunday at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Andretti Autosport rookie Zach Veach is fighting on a second front.
Coming off a career-best fourth-place finish at Long Beach, Veach – who made his series debut at Barber last season in place of an injured JR Hildebrand for Ed Carpenter Racing – has been battling what he thinks is food poisoning. He’s gone through several IV bags and hadn’t eaten since Friday night, and still managed to advance to his first IndyCar Fast 12. He’ll start 11th on Sunday.
“Qualifying felt a little like being inside a washing machine,” he admitted. “This is one of the toughest days I’ve ever had mentally in a racecar. I’m just so thankful. I think we had the speed to get into the top 12 today, I know we got a little luck with [Tony] Kanaan bringing out the red [flag].
“It’s just good to get that monkey off the back. We left Long Beach saying we wanted to qualify a little better, and we did just that. Hopefully tomorrow when I come back a little more rested, we can make our way further up in the field. There’s so much more I want to develop. My end goal is miles away from where I’m at right now.
“I have to say, I did enjoy that last run in qualifying. You’ve got someone like [Scott] Dixon in front of you, and he’s not pulling you that bad, or you’re running with [Sebastien] Bourdais… it’s cool to be around that atmosphere. Once you get inside the top 10 in the Verizon IndyCar Series, it’s pretty rarified air. I’m just so thankful and I’m going to keep working. I wasn’t happy until I was winning races in Indy Lights and I’m going to feel the same in the Verizon IndyCar Series.”
In the five races Veach ran in Indy Lights at Barber, he had one win and two third-place finishes.