World Wide Technology Raceway, which will host next week’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES and Indy Lights races presented by Cooper Tires, will have cars on track today and Friday. One of the pilots is a return to both series.
Zach Veach, a veteran of 44 Indy Lights and 47 NTT INDYCAR SERIES races, last competed in the latter in 2016. But on Friday he will be back in a single-seater, testing an Indy Lights car to help Ernie Francis Jr .of Force Indy. with its progress.
Francis Jr., 24, is a seven-time Trans-Am Series champion from Davie, Fla., who ranks 11th of 15 drivers who have entered Indy Lights this season. He has an average of 9.2, with a better seventh place in the season-opening race in St. Petersburg.
Veach has been assisting the series rookie for about a month, attending the Hy-Vee INDYCAR weekend doubleheader at Iowa Speedway and last weekend’s Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville either side of a Indy Lights test at Sebring International Raceway when he drove the car for eight laps.
Veach has never driven an Indy Lights car at World Wide Technology Raceway, but he scored one of his three NTT INDYCAR SERIES career top five finishes at the track in 2018. He finished fifth for Andretti Autosport.
Veach said the challenge Francis Jr. faces in his first Indy Lights season cannot be underestimated, which is why coaching someone who has figuratively been in his shoes is important.
(Coincidentally, both are nearly the same size, so their seats are interchangeable without having to adjust the cockpit and pedals, saving time on a one-day test.)
“I was lucky to go from INDYCAR to IMSA (sports car racing) where the cars get heavier and slower, so it’s more of a disagreement process,” Veach said. “Ernie goes the other way and as a driver you step out of your comfort zone. With the downforce and extra grip you have in these Indy Lights cars, you have to learn when (to be aggressive) and when the car can reward you.
Francis Jr. will be one of twelve Indy Lights drivers to test Friday at the 1.25-mile oval in Madison, Illinois. The session is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. ET and end at 7 p.m.
Veach, who in recent weeks has raced 410 sprint cars in Ohio and a dwarf in last week’s Driven2SaveLives BC39 presented by WeatherTech at The Dirt Track at IMS, hopes this return to the INDYCAR scene is part of his comeback from the competitive side of business. His goal is to land a race for next year’s Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, which would be his fifth start in the oval race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He earned a spot in the field every year from 2017 to 2020.
NTT INDYCAR SERIES testing at World Wide Technology Raceway takes place today, with drivers Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood of AJ Foyt Racing, David Malukas of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD, Devlin DeFrancesco of Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport, Callum Ilott of Juncos Hollinger Racing and Christian Lundgaard of Rahal Letterman Lanigan participating. All but Kellett are rookies to the show. The session lasts until 9 p.m. ET.
The Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline begins with track action on Friday, August 19. The NTT INDYCAR SERIES will have practice at 1 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. ET, with qualification for the NTT P1 Award at 7:15 p.m.
The first Indy Lights practice is Friday, August 19 at 3:10 p.m. ET. Qualifying will take place at 6:15 p.m.
On Saturday, August 20, Indy Lights will host its race at 4:15 p.m. ET with the 15th race of the 17-race NTT INDYCAR SERIES season at 6 p.m. on USA Network and INDYCAR Radio Network.
Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden is the two-time defending NTT INDYCAR SERIES racing champion, and he’s won three of the last six events at the track.