At age 12, Zach Veach knew he wanted to drive. Since he couldn't legally get behind the wheel of his parents' car, so he did the next best thing: He became a pro race car driver. Now, at 17 years old, Zach is one of the youngest race car drivers in the country. Competing in INDYCAR’s Mazda Road to Indy, he drives for Andretti Autosport and will be competing in the 2012 Star Mazda Championship.
Off the race track, Zach's other passion is writing. In his book 99 Things Teens Wish They Knew Before Turning 16, he shares own experience with bullies in high school. Zach has recently joined the campaigns against bullying with Cyber Safety Academy’s NO BULL Challenge.
We think Zach is an amazing teen and we're super excited to have him join our Huffington Post High School blogging team in 2012!
In the meantime, we recently caught up with the young race car champ to talk school, bullies, and, of course, the open road.
What was your experience with bullying in high school?
I had become so passionate about [racing] that I’d wear racing memorabilia to school. One thing that really stands out is when I was racing in Indianapolis, I won the go-kart race and they gave me a hat. Being proud like I was, I wore it to school because that was my win in my career. The bullies at lunch were just so mean. One grabbed my hat, threw it in the trashcan, and poured white milk all over it. At the time I was a little upset, but as I look back it's kind of ironic because after you win the Indianapolis 500 they give you milk!
How did you deal with it? What did you learn?
I use these experiences to just kind of focus and say, 'Okay, I’m going to show these kids that they’re wrong about me. That I can do whatever I wanna do.' And I think that's what I want to show other kids, that no matter whats going on in life you're able to do whatever you want to do.
Tell us about your book, 99 Things Teens Wish They Knew Before Turning 16 and how that came about.
My first year with Andretti [Autosport], I was one of the youngest kids in the sport to be doing it. It seemed like I’d always get the question: What advice could I give the kids my age that want to follow their dreams? It seemed that about after the hundredth time, I was like why I don’t just write a book with everything I’ve learned so they don’t have to find the interview! They can just go get the book and it's all right there for them. In [the book], I talk a lot about dealing with problems such as trying to sit through school, bullies, staying organized. So I think it's just an all around great book for kids.
What advice would you would give to other teens?
Never let someone stand in your way. No matter what you want to do in life and no matter how not typical it is, don’t let bullies push you around just because you’re different.
You were recently recognized by ESPN. How did that feel?
It was a great honor for me to be nominated as a NEXT athlete in motorsports by ESPN. It just it adds a little pressure -- ESPN is saying that you’re going to be the next athlete in racing! I always remember that when I get up in the morning, and when I’m tired, I feel like I have to give that extra 10 percent. It helps me out a lot just to give it my all everyday. I can be the next athlete!
Why did you decide to get involved with the Great American NO BULL Challenge?
It was really great to find the Great American NO BULL Challenge. They’re the biggest national campaign out there to put an end to cyberbullying in America. They have a challenge where they’re having kids submit videos of how they’re standing up to bullying and I think that’s really great. A lot of kids feel scared to stand up because they don’t want to be the only one. With these videos that are being submitted, I think it will really inspire kids to kind of stand up and change bullying in America. It’s really pretty exciting to be part of something like that.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell HuffPost High School readers?
I’m really looking forward to blogging for your guys as I travel across the country this year. It's always fun to get the word out and show other people what we do when we’re out on the road. I’m really excited. It's very humbling for me.
Check out a few of Zach's favorite snapshots from his racing career in the slideshow below!