Andretti adds to his USF2000 team
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Zach Veach has a new contract with Michael Andretti's race team, a book coming out later this year and spends much of his free time trying to persuade people to stop texting while driving.
Not bad for a 15-year-old.
Veach will drive Andretti's second entry in the USF2000 national championship series. Another 15-year-old, Sage Karam, signed with Andretti about a month ago to be part of the Indy Racing League's new ladder series known as "Road to Indy."
"I said I was very much in support of it," Andretti said Friday. "You've got to back up those words and that's what we're doing. We're supporting it. ... And hopefully Sage and Zach will be our two drivers all the way through the system."
Veach, of Stockdale, Ohio, started driving when he was 12 and quickly worked his way through the ranks. When not doing regular kid stuff -- video games with friends, mostly -- he's trying to educate teen drivers about the perils of texting while behind the wheel, and is finishing a book called "99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Getting Your Drivers License," which is due out Dec. 9, his 16th birthday.
"The 'Road to Indy' program is definitely needed," said Dan Anderson, who runs the USF2000 series. "We need it, not just for drivers. We need it to develop engineers, mechanics, team owners and sponsors. If American open-wheel racing is going to regain what it had back in the 1990s, it needs to develop the talent all the way through."
Veach makes his debut in the series May 29 at Indianapolis.
"I'd like to be 18 and be in an IRL car," Veach said. "I'm trying to follow the ladder. They've really tried hard to set it up and it looks like a strong future."
This weekend's Honda Grand Prix will mark the first time the whole ladder system -- including the Star Mazda and USF2000 series, along with IndyLights -- will be on display.
"We feel it's important for drivers to get this kind of experience on IndyCar weekends," said Tony George Jr., who manages business development for IndyLights.
POWER PRACTICE: Will Power won the season-opener in Sao Paulo, and he's feeling good about going 2 for 2 in this young IRL season.
Power had the best times in Friday's opening day of practice in St. Petersburg, saying he thought the 1.8-mile, 14-turn circuit was much better than a year ago.
"I thought coming into the race I knew the track in my head real well, actually," Power said. "I came here and it took no time to get up to speed. I have to say that experience has sort of counted a little bit this weekend, so far."
Dario Franchitti and Ryan Briscoe were second- and third-fastest in the morning practice session Friday, while Scott Dixon and Justin Wilson ran 2-3 behind Power in the afternoon laps.
"We are still a long ways from Will," Dixon said.
Franchitti hit the wall around Turn 4 in the afternoon session, and was only 18th-fastest during that round.
DE FERRAN ELECTED: Racing legend Gil de Ferran was elected Friday to the new IndyCar Series advisory committee, which will help review, research and recommend the future IRL chassis and engine platform.
The committee will be chaired by retired Air Force Gen. William R. Looney III. Other members are expected to be named by IRL CEO Randy Bernard next week.
WEATHER WATCH: There's some concern already about weather for Sunday's IRL race.
The National Weather Service says there's a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms Sunday afternoon. The IndyCar race isn't supposed to begin until 3:30 p.m.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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