It’s cool to say I coached a kid who will be driving in the greatest spectacle in racing.
Although my pee wee basketball coaching in no way influenced Zach Veach’s place in the Indianapolis 500, I can say I coached him. Come to think of it, maybe I pushed him away from basketball altogether (kidding.)
I recalled my grueling fourth-grade basketball practices with Zach – who is now 22 and getting prepared for the biggest professional day in his life (see the picture of our fourth-grade team below.) I spent some time with him on the phone recently and was so happy for him because he is realizing his dream to race in the 500 will come true next month.
Zach is from Stockdale, Ohio which has a population of – depending on who you talk to – about 250 people. The Indy 500 rookie told me he is grateful for the support he gets from those back home because he now lives in Indianapolis. He makes that his home because of the racing environment and because it’s home to “the best racing fans in the world.”
Zach was picked up by Indy racing legend A.J. Foyt on April 7. Soon, he will find himself zooming around the Brickyard’s historic 2.5-mile track in hopes of capturing the checkered flag.
There is nothing wrong with having a dream. It doesn’t matter if it’s big or small. Have a goal and try to reach it….If you fail, it’s okay. Put yourself in a position to make it happen like Zach did.
“I was just so humbled he gave me this chance,” Zach told me of Foyt. “I’ve been very fortunate to have a solid reputation around the drivers and they know I’ve been dreaming about this opportunity.”
And Foyt must have seen something in Zach too, to give him this chance. The first four-time winner of the 500 told me he thinks Zach is a fine rookie and is expecting good things from him.
I could tell from my conversation on the phone with Zach he was genuinely humble and grateful. He wasn’t boastful or prideful. And from that, I feel good things are store for him.
“But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” James 4:6 KJV
And Zach has maintained his sense of humor too. We joked about the old basketball days when he played with my son, Eli. Zach didn’t complain or have a negative attitude. He was a pleasure to have on my team. He did what was asked of him and hopefully, he had some fun.
“I knew then I wasn’t going to go to the NBA,” he said with a laugh. “I knew when I was four I wanted to race in Indy.”
Zach was determined back then and working hard will soon merit rewards. He’s in the field for the 500, along with 32 other racers from around the world. What an amazing accomplishment. Just so you know, he will be in car #40 — which is significant because it was 40 years ago when Foyt won his fourth checkered flag.
“I’m very honored to have that number,” Zach said.
And now, I’m on Zach’s team. I’m rooting and pulling for him, as all of Stockdale and Minford will be doing May 28.
His attitude and excitement were obvious on the phone. He has his priorities in order. He knows where he came from and is thankful to have been raised in Pike County.
“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” James 4:10 KJV
I plan on being at the race and writing about Zach for a magazine article or two. My story about Zach getting to this point appeared in the Portsmouth Daily Times last week. You can read it here.