Formula Atlantic, a series that boasts the participation of some of motorsport’s great drivers – Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan, Michael Andretti, Danica Patrick, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Gilles Villeneuve, Jacques Villeneuve, Keke Rosberg, Sam Hornish Jr. and A.J. Allmendinger – has just given the green light to a 15-year-old boy to go racing in 2010.
Zach Veach, a kid from Ohio, will be the youngest driver in the 37-year-history of Atlantics and I don't think that’s a good thing.
From what I can tell, he’s a karter who’s tested for the now-discontinued Formula BMW Americas series and then tested Atlantic cars with Canadian team Jensen Motorsport before signing a contract that will see him begin his professional open-wheel, open-cockpit career next March in Sebring.
Look again at all those names in the first paragraph. Every one of them is different from Veach in one very important area: they were adults who knew what they were getting themselves into when they went racing in Atlantics.
I’ve been down this road before: I am dead set against
high-speed motorsport involvement by minors.
I’m not alone in this. NASCAR won’t let anyone under the age of 18 participate in a NASCAR-sanctioned motorsport activity. Neither will the Indy Racing League. In fact (and I’ll have more to say about this in another blog later this week), the IRL in recent days eliminated the possibility of budding racers going directly from karts into Indy Lights (which is comparable to the Atlantics) until they’ve had a season or two in a professional Formula Ford (or equivalent stepping-stone) series.
In any event, Jensen Motorsport – which is owned by Eric Jensen, a friend of mine – has signed young Zach to a two-year contract and Jensen is high on his potential.
“I’ve indeed been lucky and often privileged to coach upcoming drivers who strive to become tomorrow’s open-wheel stars,” said Jensen, in a release.
“Every so often, an individual comes along that truly makes you stand up and take notice, with both the raw, God-given talent and desire that simply cannot be taught. From what I’ve already seen in several private tests at both Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Nevada, Zach might very well be one of America’s great next generation drivers.”
Let’s hope Eric’s right about that potential –
for everybody’s sake, but particularly Zach’s.