Veach Makes IndyCar Radio Pit Lane Debut in Long Beach
 April 19, 2016| 
  • Series News

Drivers from the Verizon IndyCar Series were a little surprised this weekend when the IndyCar Radio pit reporter waiting for a post-session chat turned out to be Belardi Auto Racing’s Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires driver Zach Veach. With Indy Lights not in action at the Grand Prix of Long Beach, Veach jumped at the opportunity to expand on his broadcasting experience and get into the trenches.

The 21-year-old Ohioan previously had worked as a driver analyst in the booth, but finding himself on pit lane during an IndyCar race was a completely different experience. More than one IndyCar driver did a double take when they realized who was holding the mic.

“I have a renewed respect for everyone who does broadcasting from pit lane,” said Veach, “because it’s a lot harder than it looks. You have to come up with content, ask the right people the right questions and then put it all together while it’s happening – and timing it in with the show in the right way is very difficult. I’ve been in the booth with Mark Jaynes as the race analyst before, and that’s been fairly easy because I’m being asked questions that I already know the answers to. In the pit lane, it’s me who’s asking the questions. It’s been hit and miss this weekend, but every time I asked something it got better so I’m sure I’ll get comfortable after a few races.

“I was lucky with the guys I talked to after the race, like (Juan Pablo) Montoya, Scott Dixon and ‘Hinch’ (James Hinchcliffe). They were really nice in responding to me. They gave me a couple of looks like ‘what are you doing here’ but every interview was fun and light. I think that’s one of the advantages of being a driver analyst and now a pit reporter; you have a ‘brotherhood’ relationship with these guys and it opens it up to a whole new level.”

While some drivers may be more comfortable answering questions from another driver, Veach admits that he’s not always comfortable asking some of the questions he knows would interest the fans.

“I think maybe they are a little more honest with me because they know I’m not going to ask them anything I wouldn’t want to be asked,” said Veach. “On the other hand, I’m asking them questions that I may know the answers to as a driver, so I have to have the viewpoint of a pit reporter. Putting those two perspectives together works. Like asking Montoya how he felt after a race with no yellows; out of respect, I wouldn’t ordinarily ask him that, driver to driver, but I know fans would want to know.”

Veach made his first foray into radio broadcasting at St. Petersburg last year. Going into the 2015 season without a full-time ride, he was drafted by then-Indy Lights lead announcer (now the voice of IndyCar) Mark Jaynes for duty in the booth for Indy Lights races. Naturally, one thing led to another and before long, Veach found himself calling the big show.

“I started out doing all the Indy Lights races that I could make it to. Then Davey Hamilton had to miss a couple races so I was in the booth for the IndyCar events at Toronto and Mid-Ohio. I continued doing it this season, doing the IndyCar race in Phoenix in the booth as well as the pit reporting in Long Beach. I’ll be doing Road America and Boston as well.

“I worked the IndyCar race at Phoenix on the same weekend that Indy Lights was on track and I look at it as giving me a slight advantage. I’m practicing in the Indy Lights car, and then I’m up in the booth watching the IndyCar drivers go around. I’m seeing exactly what they’re doing right after I’m in my race car, so not only does that allow me to give the best feedback, because I know the track conditions and what did or didn’t work on my car, I see what the IndyCar guys are doing and I can relate that to my next session. So pulling double duty works for me!”

Veach has developed his own style on air, a comfortable, conversational approach both in the booth and on the pit lane. He credits the experience around him in the radio booth and the many media-related activities he has been involved with on his six-year journey on the Mazda Road to Indy with giving him the ability to handle himself with ease.

“All the media training that the Mazda Road to Indy puts together along with Mazda and Cooper Tires has really helped,” said Veach. “They taught me a lot about handling the media, how to talk to reporters. It’s something you have to practice, and that training really helped. There is no way I would be as comfortable as I am if I hadn’t come up through all three Mazda Road to Indy series and gotten that experience.

“I also give a lot of credit to Mark Jaynes and Paul Page. Last year, they were so great at keying me up to answer the questions. Being a race analyst, you’re interpreting what the driver is thinking and that was pretty easy for me, since I have that mindset. Mark and Paul would ask questions I could respond to in a good way, which made me look better than I was as I got comfortable. I’m very thankful for that. Paul told me at the outset to forget the radio part and just have a conversation with him and that made things really simple.”

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