BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – For the second straight year, Belardi Auto Racing kicked off their Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season with a victory at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. In 2016, Sweden’s Felix Rosenqvist scored the win for the team, while just over a month ago, it was series freshman Aaron Telitz who brought the operation the first triumph.
Belardi’s three-driver line-up will return to competition this weekend at the 2.3-mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama and more race wins will be the primary goal. Santiago Urrutia is aiming to repeat his success from 2016, when he scored his first of four wins on the undulating Barber road course. Telitz posted a pair of runner-up finishes at Barber in ‘16 on his way to the Pro Mazda championship, while Shelby Blackstock finished in the top-five in both ends of last year’s doubleheader. The team is now primed and ready for success, coming off a solid test at the venue in March.
“I’m happy with the way the 2017 season got underway, and while Aaron’s victory was certainly the high point, Santi’s podium in Race #2 and Shelby’s sheer overall competitiveness made for a very positive first outing,” commented Brian Belardi, noting the strong start to the season which has all three drivers in the top-six in the championship points. “All three of our guys had individual success at Barber last year, and our recent test at the track went extremely well. The whole team is motivated to keep the momentum going.”
Urrutia scored his first career Indy Lights win at Barber last year and is keen to record his first victory of 2017 when the team hits the track in Birmingham. After a DNF from contact in Race #1 in St. Pete, the Uruguayan bounced back with a runner-up finish in Race #2 to keep himself near the top of the point standings. Urrutia will sport new Arrow Electronics colors this weekend, running the same livery as Grand Prix of Long Beach winner James Hinchcliffe. Belardi Auto Racing has partnered with Schmidt Peterson Motorsport in a driver development program and both team principals are excited about the prospects.
“I'm very excited for this combined effort,” offered Belardi. “I'm looking forward to the partnership with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and having the Arrow name on our #5 car. I believe this new collaboration is a great step forward for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tire ladder program. I’m very proud with the fact that our former drivers like Gabby Chaves and Zach Veach will be in this year’s Indianapolis 500, and I know that this new driver development program will help graduate more of the Belardi family into the Verizon IndyCar Series.”
With Urrutia sporting the Arrow black and gold, reigning Pro Mazda champion Telitz will display the prestigious ‘Soul Red’ livery reserved for the Mazda scholarship drivers. Aaron starred in the opening round of the year to get his first Indy Lights win on his resume as quickly as possible, and a strong run in the second race in St. Pete has positioned him second in the current point standings. The Minneapolis, MN resident loves the Barber facility and is ready to maintain his early momentum.
Mooresville, NC’s Blackstock was one of the stars of the race in St. Petersburg, rising to the occasion to race hard for top-five finishes. Shelby finished fourth in the opening race and sixth in the back-end of the doubleheader, showing impressive racecraft and determination. With two strong results at Barber in 2016, top-fives and podiums are again on the horizon. The American’s first race win is surely just around the corner.
The Indy Lights races at Barber Motorsports Park take place on Saturday, April 22 at 2:00 pm CDT and Sunday, April 23 at 11:45 am CST. The on-track action from Birmingham will 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
Hometown: Montevideo, Uruguay
Residence: Miguelete, Uruguay
Sponsors: ARROW Electronics, BSE, ANCAP, Antel, Ministerio de Turismo, AgroLavalle, SuperMatch, Fadisol, SINTEPLAS, Secretaría Nacional de Deporte, BMW MotorHaus
Driver Input: ““So it’s finally race week after a long break, and we’re going to Barber, which is a really good track that I like a lot. I was on the podium twice back in 2015 in Pro Mazda and last year, I got the win in Indy Lights so I really like to drive it. I like that it’s so technical. We have some things to work on, like qualifying and the pace of the race, but we’re going to work hard to get great finishes to help with season-end points. It’s very important to be on the podium for both races if we want to fight for the championship.”
AARON TELITZ - #9
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
Driver Input: “It’s so great to be getting back to racing after what feels like a ridiculously long break between St. Pete and Barber! I’m just going to keep doing my thing and build on our awesome opening weekend. My Mazda Soul Red Belardi Auto Racing machine is going to be fast this weekend.”
SHELBY BLACKSTOCK - #51
Hometown: Nashville, TN
Residence: Charlotte, NC
Sponsors: Starstruck, Sparco, AMPED Apparel/Optics, Arai Helmets
Driver Input: “After the long break, I’m really looking forward to my home race at Barber Motorsports Park this weekend! We had a promising test there recently so the team should hit the ground running. After a decent run at St. Pete and two good finishes here last year, I’m looking to continue the momentum going into May.”
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 Grand Prix of Long Beach, 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.