INDIANAPOLIS — Three years ago, a kid I coached in fourth-grade basketball made it big time in the world of auto racing.
Zach Veach qualified for the world-famous Indianapolis 500 – “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
Although his first attempt ended with 45 laps to go when his engine failed on turn three, he is back at the Speedway for his third attempt to kiss the bricks.
Last year, the Stockdale, Ohio native finished the race for Andretti Autosport. Now, the 24-year-old wants to drink the jug of milk in the winner’s circle.
I know Zach well and have followed his career with a big grin.
Basketball was not his sport. I actually designed a play once just to give him a chance to score as I believe he had about four points for the season.
But he found his passion for racing at a young age and didn’t let anything stand in his way.
“I would hope that my 12-year-old self would be proud of where I am today,” he told me when we visited in his No. 26 garage at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “But we have a lot more to achieve and a lot more to do.”
Since 2010, Zach has been on the rise. He was named to CNN’s list of the most “Intriguing People” and is the national spokesperson for FocusDriven. He is outspoken about his interest in putting an end to distracted driving. In April 2010, he taped a segment on The Oprah Winfrey Show about the No Phone Zone.
But now he’s back home in Indiana and has his sights set on winning the biggest race in the world.
Last year, he had a fast car but also had three issues in the pit lane where his ride caught on fire each time.
He likes his chances this year and has the right attitude along with a custom-made Honda car.
“I spend a lot of time visualizing the race,” he told me. “I visualize the course, and I focus on what I need to do to improve on and what I can do to the best of my ability.”
Then he said he wants to sleep at least nine-and-a-half hours before he straps himself into the race car and gets the green flag to go 500 miles at 230 MPH.
“I’ve been learning the patience side of things over the past year because this is a long race,” he said. “Honestly, you don’t start racing until the last 100 miles.”
Zach has a wonderful perspective on his profession. He is doing what he loves and yet maintains a humble attitude, even though he is a rising star in the sport.
I watched him last year at Indy sit at a table and sign autographs, and there was merchandise in the souvenir shops with his face and number.
On the long drive home, I listened to my interview with Zach that I will prepare for a local magazine and newspaper. It made me ponder and examine if I have my priorities in order like Zach does on the day of the race.
Do I spend time visualizing my race? In this case, my life? Do I visualize the course? Do I see all the turns and challenges I will face as a father, and now as a grandfather? What do I need to improve on to help my family grow? How can I excel in my writing ministry and make sure it has an impact?
I came up with my top five priorities as I see them:
1. God; Serving the Lord comes before every other consideration in life. I have learned this the hard way. When I put Him first, I can withstand the other challenges I might face. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6: 33 KJV)
2. Family; This is the backbone of the world. The family means everything. Satan works hard every day to destroy this important foundation. There is a real fight from the enemy to take away the meaning and tradition of this institution.
3. Country; The nation that proclaims “God Bless America” is under a fierce attack from the other side. Patriotism must stand strong in the face of the intolerant left. My flag will always fly, my hand will always be placed over my heart, and my feet will stand strong when the National Anthem is performed.
4. Church; Not all of us are pastors or deacons or teachers. But we all can participate and take part in the local church. Support with prayers and tithes is a must.
5. Work; Lastly, we all must make a living to support our family. But make sure you do not worship or serve your occupation. In the end, your country, church, family, and God is what matters.
When life comes at you full speed with sharp turns and unexpected delays, stay focused on what’s important to you. Hold on and keep your eyes on the prize, and let God take you through the challenges you might face.
That way you will be able to take the checkered flag when the long race is over.
I hope and pray Zach qualifies for the 500 in the next few days. I plan to be there on race day when 500,000 people will honor America and watch these brave men and women zoom around the track in pursuit of their dreams.
God speed Zach.
Are you focused on life?
Del Duduit is an award-winning writer and author who lives in Lucasville, Ohio with his wife, Angie. They attend Rubyville Community Church. Follow his blog at delduduit.com/blog and his Twitter @delduduit. He is represented by Cyle Young of Hartline Literary Agency.
His first book — BUCKEYE BELIEVER - 40 Days of Devotions for The Ohio State Faithful —can be purchased on Amazon.