By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
In this series, we will take a look at driver moves we would like to see for the 2017 Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires.
During his time in the Mazda Road to Indy, Aaron Telitz has been a winner.
After winning the 2013 Skip Barber Race Series Championship Shootout, Telitz won the 2014 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda Rookie of the Year award as well as the only oval race of the season at Lucas Oil Raceway for ArmsUp Motorsports. That performance, plus only three results outside of the top 10, helped him secure fourth in the championship before moving to Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing.
Although Telitz finished third in the 2015 USF2000 championship with one win at Barber Motorsports Park, the Rice Lake, Wisconsin driver only had two finishes outside of the top five, making his move to the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires in 2016.
Team Pelfrey scored the top two positions in the 2016 Pro Mazda standings with Pato O’Ward finishing second and with the Mazda Scholarship money, Telitz is set to move to Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires.
But where will we see Telitz next year?
Telitz has tested for two Indy Lights teams since the offseason began. At the Chris Griffis Memorial Test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s infield road course, he tested for a day with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and with Belardi Auto Racing. Since that time, Telitz has also tested with Belardi at Gateway Motorsports Park.
“We were already talking to Indy Lights teams at Laguna and especially after Laguna obviously winning the championship, just about every Indy Lights team would like to try to get you in their car,” Telitz told Motorsports Tribune.
“So we got lots of conversations from most of the Indy Lights teams and in the end decided to test with two of them at the CGMT. So day one I decided to test with SPM and then on day two with Belardi Auto Racing.”
Telitz went on to say that there weren’t any differences on how the teams were run, but just with personalities that are there. However, the CGMT was not his first interaction with Belardi Auto Racing nor would it be the last. The 24-year-old Wisconsin native was one of the team’s guests at Watkins Glen for the IndyCar and Indy Lights race weekend a week before the MRTI season finale weekend.
“It was really just John Brunner the team manager called me up a few weeks before Watkins Glen, there was no Pro Mazda race that weekend, he was like ‘Hey, if you want to just come on out to Watkins Glen and hang out with the team and see how we work and get an insight for it.’
“So I figured why not, that sounds like a good opportunity,” Telitz said.
2017 will mark the first time Indy Lights has gone to Gateway since 2003 and the test was Telitz’s first time on an oval in an Indy Lights car.
“I knew I needed to get on an oval soon and Belardi happened to have a test at [Gateway] which is on the schedule for next year so I thought that was a good opportunity to get on that test and get in the car and get a feel for an oval and it was incredible,” Teltiz continued.
“The car is crazy fast on an oval, it’s hard to comprehend, you know. The first few laps when you’re out there, the tires are cold and you’re slipping around a little bit and it’s a new track you’ve never been on and then you get up to speed pretty quickly and realize how much grip the car has, it’s incredible. We were flat out around Turns 3 and 4 at Gateway, it’s pretty ridiculous, lots and lots of grip but it was a really fun test to get a feel for the oval.”
Based on Telitz’s tests and his time spent with Belardi, I would venture a guess to say he might be a shoe-in at Belardi. However, nothing has been confirmed as of yet and we might see a complete wild card announcement. However, it is the opinion of this writer that Belardi Auto Racing would be a fantastic fit for the rising Mazda Road to Indy star.