Series runner-up returns to Mazda Road to Indy with winningest team from 2016 BROWNSBURG, Ind.
– The off-season has been busy for Belardi Auto Racing, as the winningest Indy Lights team from 2016 has spent a great deal of time both in the shop and at the track running through testing programs for its three new drivers – Shelby Blackstock, Santiago Urrutia and Aaron Telitz. The Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires squad is prepped and ready to begin the 2017 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires campaign this coming weekend at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and will be targeting race wins and podium finishes, just as it did last March. Last season, Felix Rosenqvist scored his first of three wins for Belardi Auto Racing at St. Pete, and this year’s driving trio is focused on a repeat performance.
“I’m very excited to get the new Indy Lights season underway and I’m extremely happy with all three of our drivers,” commented Brian Belardi, Team Owner. “Santi, Shelby and Aaron were great during off-season testing and they’ve all melded with our technical staff so easily. The atmosphere is positive and I know the team wants to repeat the level of performance that we showed in the second half of last season, when we outscored the rest of the paddock. We’re coming to St. Petersburg with the goal of winning races.”
Urrutia battled for last year’s championship with eventual title winner Ed Jones, and with his move to Belardi Auto Racing for 2017, he’ll take over the #5 Dallara IL-15 that Zach Veach steered to three victories last season. This is going to be a potent combination. Urrutia, 20, will maintain the close relationship that he developed with his engineer, as Tim Neff has joined Belardi’s technical staff. Santi finished fourth in his Indy Lights debut at St. Petersburg last year, but went on to win four races en route to taking second in the championship standings. Entering his second season, the Uruguay driver is focused on nothing but race wins and the championship title.
Set to tackle his seventh season in the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, Shelby Blackstock has moved to the Belardi stable and will be looking for a fresh start with a new team. The 27-year-old took an 11th in the second race of the St. Pete doubleheader last March, and would go on to post five top-five results during the season. Pre-season testing has been extremely positive and Shelby is motivated to come out of the box strongly.
Belardi Auto Racing will have one of the Soul red Mazda scholarship cars under the tent, as they were the team of choice for 2016 Pro Mazda champion Aaron Telitz. The Minnesota resident showed his mettle last year when he fueled a mid-season surge of race wins and consistency to wrestle away the title from his teammate, who had won six of the first seven races of the year. Telitz, 25, righted his ship at his home track of Road America, and while he is expected to be impressive out of the gate in St. Pete, Elkhart Lake will be the mid-point of the season and Aaron will surely be relishing the chance to perform well. Last year, Telitz was victorious at St. Petersburg and finished on the podium in both Pro Mazda races, which will provide confidence heading into the opening round of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires this weekend.
The team has already loaded into the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg paddock, and is ready to begin the 2017 Indy Lights season. A single practice session on Friday morning will prepare the team for separate qualifying sessions for the doubleheader weekend, the first coming later that day in the early evening. Qualifying for the second race is schedule for first-thing Saturday morning, while the race will go green at 5:10 pm. Race #2 will run as part of the Sunday festivities, immediately after morning warm-up for the Verizon IndyCar Series. The cars will roll to begin the back end of the doubleheader at 9:45 am Eastern. The on-track action from St. Petersburg will also be streamed live on the Mazda Road to Indy app or through the MRTI.TV website (www.roadtoindy.tv), as will the entire Indy Lights season. BELARDI AUTO RACING – DRIVER INFORMATION
SANTIAGO URRUITA - #5
: 20 Hometown
: Montevideo, Uruguay Residence
: Miguelete, Uruguay Sponsors
: BSE, ANCAP, Antel, Ministerio de Turismo, AgroLavalle, SuperMatch, Fadisol, SINTEPLAS, Secretaría Nacional de Deporte, BMW MotorHaus Social Media:
: www.santiurrutia.com.uy Facebook
: https://www.facebook.com/Santiago-Urrutia-Oficial Twitter
: @Santi_Urrutia Driver Input
: “It’s finally race week…it’s been such a long break. I’m very happy with my team and my engineer and I’m ready to fight for the championship. We have been working quite hard through the pre-season and testing has gone very well. It’s time to get going and I hope to have a good weekend and start the season off in the right way. I hope to find for the win in both races and I know we have the car to do that.” AARON TELITZ - #9
: 25 Hometown
: Birchwood, WI Residence
: Minneapolis, MN Sponsors
: Mazda, Rice Lake Weighing Systems, Rising Star Racing, Morrie's Chippewa Valley Mazda, Fred Thomas Resort, Cooper Tires, Bell Helmets, Sparco, Team USA Scholarship Social Media:
: www.aarontelitz.com Facebook
: https://www.facebook.com/aaron.telitz Twitter
: @aarontelitz Instagram
Driver Input: “I'm so ready to get the season going here in St. Pete. The Belardi guys have been awesome all off-season. Don't look too much into our times at the Homestead test. We knew exactly what we were working on and we're going to be fast at St. Pete. It's an honor to fly the Soul Red colors from Mazda in Indy Lights this season and I'm glad to be bringing my home state sponsor Rice Lake Weighing Systems to Indy Lights as well!" SHELBY BLACKSTOCK - #51
: 27 Hometown
: Nashville, TN Residence
: Charlotte, NC Sponsors
: Starstruck, Sparco, AMPED Apparel/Optics, Arai Helmets Social Media:
: www.shelbyblackstock.com Facebook
: https://www.facebook.com/ShelbyBlackstock Twitter
: @shelbilly Instagram
: @shelbyblackstock Driver Input
: “I’m looking forward to the first race of the season in St. Petersburg! The team has had a productive offseason testing and the cars are strong! Let's go racing!” About Belardi Auto Racing
Belardi Auto Racing is an organization comprised of experienced individuals in the racing industry with an aggressive growth strategy and a strong commitment to finishing up front. No stranger to winning, team members having been achieving success in both the amateur and pro ranks for over a decade, winning numerous junior formula car races and championships. Based in Brownsburg, IN, Belardi Auto Racing won the 2014 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship and has scored multiple races wins in both Indy Lights and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered By Mazda, including the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis and prestigious races like the Long Beach Grand Prix, the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and the Toronto Indy and events at tracks such as the Milwaukee Mile, Pocono, Road America, Watkins Glen and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.