(AP Photo/NHRA, Jerry Foss)

Crampton 100th different NHRA Top Fuel winner; Pedregon (FC), Coughlin (PS), Hines (PSM) also win at Englishtown

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Richie Crampton claimed his first career Top Fuel victory, becoming the 100th different winner in the category, at the 45th annual Toyota NHRA Summernationals on Sunday.

Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were respective winners at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.

Crampton powered his GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster to a 3.819-second pass at 320.51 mph to defeat Top Fuel points leader Doug Kalitta in the final round. The victory came during the Australian’s ninth career start after replacing Morgan Lucas in the offseason and only a week after Crampton and his girlfriend welcomed the birth of their first child.

“This is all surreal right now,” Crampton said. “I’m really just living the dream. I know that sounds cliché, but I’m just lucky to be in the position I’m at in my personal life and my career.”

Crampton was the No. 2 qualifier for the event, his career-best starting spot. The win was extra sweet given Crampton’s milestone achievement.

“I had no idea coming into this race that somebody could possibly be the 100th new winner in Top Fuel, but it’s pretty special to get that particular point on the list,” Crampton said. “You think about how many great drivers there are on that particular list, and it’s icing on the cake for me there.”

Kalitta was appearing in his fifth final of the season in his Mac Tools dragster. Despite the defeat, Kalitta increased his points lead over second place Antron Brown to 103 points.

Pedregon was the class of the Funny Car field all weekend, going from No. 1 qualifier to the race victory with a performance of 4.126 at 301.33 in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry over Del Worsham in his DHL Camry in the final. The win was a relief for Pedregon, whose team has struggled early this season.

“It was a tremendous points day,” said Pedregon. “To say I’m excited and happy would be an understatement, but I also feel relieved a little bit. We’ve dug ourselves a pretty good hole this year.”

The win was Pedregon’s 35th of his career and first of the season. With the victory, Pedregon tied NHRA legend Don Prudhomme for fourth on the all-time Funny Car wins list.

“Prudhomme is my hero, and it means a lot [to tie him],” Pedregon said. “I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve had plenty of opportunities, but I think my biggest accomplishment is the fact that I have been doing it so long in different scenarios. To be able to do this at this level and maintain it 20 years later means everything to me.”

Coughlin secured his second Pro Stock win of the season and 58th of his career by defeating Greg Anderson in the final round with a 6.510 at 213.94 in his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Dart.

“We had the kind of conditions that Pro Stock cars love today with a great barometer and not a cloud in the sky but you had to work for it,” Coughlin said. “They gave us enough time to figure it out and we had a great day.”

Coughlin, the defending and five-time world champ, has reached the final in the last three events, also winning Atlanta and finishing runner-up in Topeka. He beat Anderson’s Summit Racing Chevy Camaro in both finals this season.

Erica Enders-Stevens had a great weekend performance-wise in her Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro as she reset both ends of the Pro Stock national record with her 6.464 second ET and 215.55 mph speed.

Hines defeated Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson teammate Eddie Krawiec to take the Pro Stock Motorcycle victory. It was the second win for Hines at Raceway Park.

“We are back,” Hines said. “I think we put an exclamation point on that this weekend. We’ve been digging the last year and a half to get back to where we were. I’ve always said that racing gets in the way of our R&D and this winter we had a chance to get a lot of work done and we’re starting to reap the benefits.”

A three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion, Hines recorded his second win of the season and 34th of his career. He leaves Englishtown having increased his points lead.

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues in Bristol, Tenn., with the 14th annual Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway, June 13-15.

 

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Here are Sunday’s final results from the 45th Toyota NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, the ninth of 24 races in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel — Richie Crampton, 3.819 seconds, 320.51 mph  def. Doug Kalitta, 3.848 seconds, 317.34 mph.

Funny Car — Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.126, 301.33  def. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.189, 296.70.

Pro Stock — Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.510, 213.94  def. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 10.314, 88.65.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.828, 196.56  def. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.837, 196.30.

Pro Modified — Von Smith, Chevy Camaro, 5.966, 241.58  def. Jason Hamstra, Ford Mustang, 9.861, 91.12.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Here’s the final finishing order (1-16) at the 45th Toyota NHRA Summernationals:

TOP FUEL: 1.  Richie Crampton; 2.  Doug Kalitta; 3.  Morgan Lucas; 4.  Shawn Langdon; 5.  Tony Schumacher; 6.  Bob Vandergriff; 7.  Brittany Force; 8.  J.R. Todd; 9.  Leah Pritchett; 10.  Dom Lagana; 11.  Antron Brown; 12.  Spencer Massey; 13.  Steve Torrence; 14.  Khalid alBalooshi; 15.  Clay Millican; 16.  Terry McMillen.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Cruz Pedregon; 2.  Del Worsham; 3.  Robert Hight; 4.  Jack Beckman; 5.  Alexis DeJoria; 6.  Matt Hagan; 7.  Tim Wilkerson; 8.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 9.  Courtney Force; 10.  Ron Capps; 11.  Chad Head; 12.  John Force; 13.  Tony Pedregon; 14.  Jeff Arend; 15.  Terry Haddock; 16.  Bob Tasca III.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Jeg Coughlin; 2.  Greg Anderson; 3.  Dave Connolly; 4.  Rodger Brogdon; 5.  Erica Enders-Stevens; 6.  Jason Line; 7.  Shane Gray; 8.  Chris McGaha; 9.  Vincent Nobile; 10.  John Gaydosh Jr; 11.  Allen Johnson; 12.  Val Smeland; 13.  Larry Morgan; 14.  V. Gaines; 15.  Kenny Delco; 16.  Jonathan Gray.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1.  Andrew Hines; 2.  Eddie Krawiec; 3.  Hector Arana Jr; 4.  Matt Smith; 5.  Michael Ray; 6.  John Hall; 7.  Jerry Savoie; 8.  Chaz Kennedy; 9.  Steve Johnson; 10.  Scotty Pollacheck; 11.  Angie Smith; 12.  LE Tonglet; 13.  Hector Arana; 14.  Shawn Gann; 15.  Jim Underdahl; 16.  Adam Arana.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Here are the updated point standings (top 10) in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel: 1.  Doug Kalitta, 809; 2.  Antron Brown, 706; 3.  Shawn Langdon, 638; 4.  Spencer Massey, 598; 5.  Steve Torrence, 580; 6.  Khalid alBalooshi, 503; 7.  Tony Schumacher, 495; 8.  Brittany Force, 462; 9.  Richie Crampton, 433; 10.  J.R. Todd, 392.

Funny Car: 1.  Robert Hight, 847; 2.  John Force, 601; 3.  Alexis DeJoria, 564; 4.  Del Worsham, 535; 5.  Ron Capps, 534; 6.  Courtney Force, 527; 7.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 508; 8.  Cruz Pedregon, 506; 9.  Jack Beckman, 480; 10.  Matt Hagan, 454.

Pro Stock: 1.  Erica Enders-Stevens, 791; 2.  (tie) Jeg Coughlin, 668; Allen Johnson, 668; 4.  Jason Line, 623; 5.  Shane Gray, 582; 6.  Vincent Nobile, 563; 7.  Dave Connolly, 535; 8.  V. Gaines, 456; 9.  Chris McGaha, 427; 10.  Rodger Brogdon, 355.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1.  Andrew Hines, 406; 2.  Eddie Krawiec, 382; 3.  John Hall, 285; 4.  Hector Arana Jr, 263; 5.  Scotty Pollacheck, 252; 6.  Michael Ray, 235; 7.  Matt Smith, 206; 8.  Steve Johnson, 187; 9.  (tie) Hector Arana, 168; Chaz Kennedy, 168.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Here are final round-by-round results from the 45th Toyota NHRA Summernationals:

TOP FUEL:

ROUND ONE — Bob Vandergriff, 4.476, 219.01 def. Khalid alBalooshi, 6.402, 130.57; Richie Crampton, 3.774, 316.82 def. Dom Lagana, 3.906, 312.71; Morgan Lucas, 3.834, 276.52 def. Steve Torrence, 5.438, 124.48; Shawn Langdon, 3.801, 320.58 def. Terry McMillen, 8.868, 85.83; Doug Kalitta, 3.785, 323.89 def. Clay Millican, 6.509, 97.26; Brittany Force, 3.789, 326.24 def. Spencer Massey, 4.130, 232.27; J.R. Todd, 3.820, 319.14 def. Leah Pritchett, 3.823, 320.51; Tony Schumacher, 3.782, 325.92 def. Antron Brown, 3.985, 270.37;

QUARTERFINALS — Langdon, 3.806, 322.27 def. Vandergriff, 3.880, 313.66; Lucas, 3.846, 311.99 def. Force, 4.107, 253.18; Kalitta, 3.822, 317.05 def. Schumacher, 3.827, 319.14; Crampton, 4.090, 261.07 def. Todd, 4.762, 209.04;

SEMIFINALS — Kalitta, 4.375, 249.12 def. Lucas, 6.032, 139.07; Crampton, 4.120, 293.92 def. Langdon, 6.356, 122.97;

FINAL — Crampton, 3.819, 320.51 def. Kalitta, 3.848, 317.34.

 

FUNNY CAR:

ROUND ONE — Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.129, 307.79 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 8.909, 76.61; Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.512, 227.08 def. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.602, 213.60; Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.524, 230.45 def. Terry Haddock, Chevy Impala, 5.466, 144.88; Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.120, 297.22 def. John Force, Mustang, 4.354, 281.60; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.067, 306.33 def. Chad Head, Camry, 4.177, 283.61; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.064, 311.56 def. Jeff Arend, Charger, 5.109, 164.47; Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.073, 301.33 def. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.116, 312.78; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.069, 313.58 def. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.153, 300.86;

QUARTERFINALS — C. Pedregon, 5.183, 216.41 def. Johnson Jr., 7.265, 113.14; Worsham, 4.168, 301.94 def. Wilkerson, 4.696, 188.36; Beckman, 4.133, 308.50 def. Hagan, 4.121, 300.60; Hight, 4.086, 306.33 def. DeJoria, 4.107, 308.07;

SEMIFINALS — C. Pedregon, 4.593, 234.33 def. Beckman, 6.381, 153.16; Worsham, 4.178, 298.73 def. Hight, 5.753, 129.65;

FINAL — C. Pedregon, 4.126, 301.33 def. Worsham, 4.189, 296.70.

 

PRO STOCK:

ROUND ONE — Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.554, 213.43 def. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 27.572, 25.50; Dave Connolly, Camaro, 7.097, 210.24 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 7.273, 205.88; Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Dart, 10.769, 144.91 def. Kenny Delco, Chevy Cobalt, 16.303, 58.06; Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 7.788, 170.82 def. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 9.916, 101.76; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.500, 214.45 def. John Gaydosh Jr, Pontiac GXP, 7.311, 202.42; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.543, 214.01 def. V. Gaines, Dart, 12.730, 68.44; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.519, 213.84 def. Allen Johnson, Dart, 7.808, 133.50; Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.464, 214.89 def. Val Smeland, Cobalt, 8.972, 107.66;

QUARTERFINALS — Coughlin, 6.586, 213.91 def. S. Gray, 6.749, 212.66; Anderson, 7.906, 170.92 def. McGaha, 8.272, 189.26; Brogdon, 6.558, 214.04 def. Line, 6.599, 213.60; Connolly, 6.539, 213.91 def. Enders-Stevens, 6.509, 214.66;

SEMIFINALS — Anderson, 6.535, 214.25 def. Brogdon, 15.406, 54.34; Coughlin, 6.524, 213.60 def. Connolly, 6.535, 214.01;

FINAL — Coughlin, 6.510, 213.94 def. Anderson, 10.314, 88.65.

 

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:

ROUND ONE — Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.826, 196.33 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.845, 195.39; Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.851, 194.16 def. Hector Arana, Buell, foul; Michael Ray, Buell, 6.831, 196.19 def. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.851, 191.48; John Hall, Buell, 6.800, 196.13 def. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.882, 194.49; Matt Smith, Buell, 6.834, 196.02 def. Shawn Gann, Buell, 16.139, 44.40; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.774, 197.74 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, broke; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.798, 197.91 def. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.867, 194.63; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.770, 198.23 def. Adam Arana, Buell, broke;

QUARTERFINALS — M. Smith, 6.848, 195.99 def. Hall, 6.837, 194.77; Krawiec, 6.750, 198.90 def. Savoie, 6.860, 197.31; Arana Jr, 6.790, 198.47 def. Kennedy, 7.089, 190.35; Hines, 6.762, 197.65 def. Ray, 6.836, 195.11;

SEMIFINALS — Hines, 6.807, 195.62 def. Arana Jr, 6.827, 198.09; Krawiec, 6.801, 198.23 def. M. Smith, 7.225, 152.09;

FINAL — Hines, 6.828, 196.56 def. Krawiec, 6.837, 196.30.

Valtteri Bottas fastest as times tumble on third day of Barcelona F1 test

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 28: Valtteri Bottas driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO8 on track during day two of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 28, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Valtteri Bottas continued his impressive start to life with Mercedes by topping the third day of Formula 1 pre-season testing as times tumbled at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Bottas split running with new teammate Lewis Hamilton once again on Wednesday in Barcelona, taking the reins of the Mercedes W08 EQ Power+ for the morning session.

The Finn was given the chance to chase fast laps, utilizing the quicker compounds in Pirelli’s range and even getting a run on the ultra-softs.

Bottas turned in a best lap 1:19.705 to finish two-tenths of a second clear at the top of the timesheets, with his time being the fastest of pre-season testing so far.

The time is also just 1.3 seconds off the lap record for an F1 car around the current layout of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, set by Felipe Massa during a test in 2008 during the V8 era.

Ferrari continued its strong start to testing as Sebastian Vettel finished second, completing his fastest lap on the soft compound tire and also dipping below the 1:20s mark. Daniel Ricciardo was third for Red Bull, 1.2 seconds further back.

Jolyon Palmer enjoyed an impressive run-out for Renault to finish fourth-fastest, although his running was interrupted in the morning by a spin at Turn 2 after getting on the power too early. Teammate Nico Hulkenberg was fifth, the pair having split the running on Wednesday.

Marcus Ericsson finished the day sixth for Sauber ahead of Haas’ Romain Grosjean, who enjoyed his first extended run in the VF-17 car after seeing teammate Kevin Magnussen take the opening two days of running. Lewis Hamilton followed in eighth for Mercedes.

Lance Stroll’s steep learning curve in F1 continued as he suffered two spins on Wednesday, the second of which caused damage to his Williams FW40 and ended the team’s running early (much as it did on Tuesday). The Canadian racked up 98 laps in total.

Fernando Alonso had a more productive day for McLaren after engine woes limited its running on the first two days, the Spaniard racking up 72 laps in total en route to P10. Compatriot Carlos Sainz Jr. was 11th for Toro Rosso, with teammate Daniil Kvyat 13th. The pair were split by Force India junior Alfonso Celis Jr.

Thursday marks the final day of the first pre-season test in Barcelona, and is set to see the track be artificially dampened to allow Pirelli to test its wet-weather tire compounds.

FIA confirms 2017 Formula 1 entry list

MONTMELO, SPAIN - MARCH 01: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO8 on track during day three of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on March 1, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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The FIA has confirmed the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship entry list on Wednesday, following on from the provisional entry list published in December.

There’s two notable absences on what is otherwise an updated entry list that goes as expected.

The first is in the engine column for Scuderia Toro Rosso. The team will run a Renault power unit for the STR12 chassis, but is yet to come up with a non-Renault badge for it, as they’ve been keen to do and to match the Red Bull Racing team which badges its Renaults as TAG Heuer.

The second, unsurprisingly, is the absence of Manor Grand Prix Racing Limited. The holding company was unable to find a last-minute buyer for the team after Manor, the team, announced its closure earlier this year.

The full entry list as published by the FIA is below:

Car N°

Driver’s Name

Company Name

Team Name

Name of the Chassis

Name of the Engine

8

Romain GROSJEAN

HAAS FORMULA LLC

HAAS F1 TEAM

HAAS

FERRARI

20

Kevin MAGNUSSEN

HAAS FORMULA LLC

HAAS F1 TEAM

HAAS

FERRARI

 27

Nicolas HULKENBERG

RENAULT SPORT RACING LTD

RENAULT SPORT FORMULA ONE TEAM

RENAULT

RENAULT

30

Jolyon PALMER

RENAULT SPORT RACING LTD

RENAULT SPORT FORMULA ONE TEAM

RENAULT

RENAULT

14

Fernando ALONSO

MCLAREN RACING LIMITED

MCLAREN HONDA FORMULA 1 TEAM

MCLAREN

HONDA

2

Stoffel VANDOORNE

MCLAREN RACING LIMITED

MCLAREN HONDA FORMULA 1 TEAM

MCLAREN

HONDA

44

Lewis HAMILTON

MERCEDES-BENZ GRAND PRIX LIMITED

MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS MOTORSPORT

MERCEDES

MERCEDES

77

Valtteri BOTTAS

MERCEDES-BENZ GRAND PRIX LIMITED

MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS MOTORSPORT

MERCEDES

MERCEDES

3

Daniel RICCIARDO

RED BULL RACING LIMITED

RED BULL RACING

RED BULL RACING

TAG HEUER

33

Max VERSTAPPEN

RED BULL RACING LIMITED

RED BULL RACING

RED BULL RACING

TAG HEUER

11

Sergio PEREZ MENDOZA

FORCE INDIA FORMULA 1 TEAM LIMITED

SAHARA FORCE INDIA F1 TEAM

FORCE INDIA

MERCEDES

 31

Esteban OCON

FORCE INDIA FORMULA 1 TEAM LIMITED

SAHARA FORCE INDIA F1 TEAM

FORCE INDIA

MERCEDES

9

Marcus ERICSSON

SAUBER MOTORSPORT AG

SAUBER F1 TEAM

SAUBER

FERRARI

94

Pascal WEHRLEIN

SAUBER MOTORSPORT AG

SAUBER F1 TEAM

SAUBER

FERRARI

5

Sebastian VETTEL

FERRARI SPA

SCUDERIA FERRARI

FERRARI

FERRARI

7

Kimi RAIKKONEN

FERRARI SPA

SCUDERIA FERRARI

FERRARI

FERRARI

55

Carlos SAINZ Jr

SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO SPA

SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO

SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO

TBC

26

Daniil KVYAT

SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO SPA

SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO

SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO

TBC

19

Felipe MASSA

WILLIAMS GRAND PRIX ENGINEERING LIMITED

WILLIAMS MARTINI RACING

WILLIAMS

MERCEDES

18

Lance STROLL

WILLIAMS GRAND PRIX ENGINEERING LIMITED

WILLIAMS MARTINI RACING

WILLIAMS

MERCEDES

Felix Rosenqvist adds Super Formula to his extensive driving resume

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Felix Rosenqvist will add Super Formula to his glittering and diverse range of machinery he’s raced in, having been confirmed in the Japanese open-wheel series overnight. He’ll race the No. 7 Toyota for Snoco Team Le Mans.

The Swede will be an intriguing driver to watch as one of six non-Japanese drivers in the series. His Toyota teammate at Snoco is Kazuya Oshima.

The non-Japanese drivers this year are Rosenqvist, the French Red Bull Junior and GP2 Pierre Gasly, New Zealander Nick Cassidy, German multiple-race Le Mans winner Andre Lotterer, English Nissan protege Jann Mardenborough and Indian ex-F1 driver Narain Karthikeyan.

Rosenqvist races full-time with Mahindra Racing in FIA Formula E and within the last year-plus, has raced in DTM, the Blancpain GT Sprint series, ADAC GT Masters, Indy Lights and the Macau Grand Prix, tested an IndyCar and was meant to race a PC class car at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The season opens at Suzuka on April 23.

Telitz, O’Ward both formally confirmed for Indy Lights step-up

aarontelitzindylights
Telitz tests No. 9 car. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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The two protagonists for the 2016 Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires championship, Aaron Telitz and Pato O’Ward, settled who’d win the Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship in September at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Telitz took the crown, and would be confirmed for his graduation into the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires in a Soul Red-liveried car.

While the graduation was known in September, it’s taken until today before all the i’s were dotted and t’s crossed on the formal confirmation of Telitz’s seat in the No. 9 Belardi Auto Racing Dallara IL-15 Mazda, thus ending months of informal chatter about the seat and even a quick inside joke that Telitz’s team was “Real Big Secret,” a joke that spread to social media.

In another humorous twist, O’Ward, who battled Telitz all season with Team Pelfrey a year ago, has been confirmed for his own step up to Indy Lights in the No. 3 Pelfrey entry on exactly the same day. The 17-year-old Mexican will join Pelfrey’s Indy Lights program for this week’s Spring Training test at the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course and the season opener at St. Petersburg.

Clearly, the two drivers still can’t get away from each other after pushing each other all last year in Pro Mazda.

The long and short of that background is that these two will round out the expected field of 15 cars for the season-opening weekend, which is only one car lower than 2016 despite the withdrawal of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and its four cars. Belardi (has grown from two to three cars), Carlin (three to four) and Andretti Autosport (three to four) have all added an extra car to pick up three of the four-ex-Schmidt Peterson cars.

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Telitz, the 25-year-old from Rice Lake, Wisconsin, was invited by Brian Belardi’s team to Watkins Glen last fall for the introduction, and completed a comprehensive testing program over the winter – primarily in Florida and also at Gateway Motorsports Park – in preparation for his step up.

“John Brunner, the team’s general manager, and [team owner] Brian Belardi invited me to the IndyCar/Indy Lights race at Watkins Glen last fall before the Pro Mazda season ended,” Telitz said. “I had a head-start in knowing the guys and seeing how the team works and knowing their cars are fast. They won that weekend and then again at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. I just really enjoyed how the Belardi guys worked. They were really professional and Brian is from Wisconsin. It’s great to have that home-state connection, as most of my personal supporters are from Wisconsin.”

“All of us at Mazda are thrilled to have Aaron carrying Mazda’s Soul Red color in 2017 with Belardi Auto Racing,” said John Doonan, director of Mazda Motorsports. “To see a talent like Aaron achieve success in the Mazda Road to Indy is ultimately what the program is all about. When he pulled into victory lane after winning the Pro Mazda Championship last fall, I told Aaron that he needed to savor the moment and remember all of the challenges he faced getting there. We cannot play favorites in the Mazda Road to Indy, but we wish Aaron the very best as he opens this new chapter in his racing career and is one step closer to the Verizon IndyCar series.”

Telitz completes the team’s three-car lineup alongside Santiago Urrutia and Shelby Blackstock, series veterans who shift to Belardi from Schmidt Peterson and Andretti, respectively. Telitz’s additional supporters include Rice Lake Weighing Systems, Rising Star Racing, Morrie’s Chippewa Valley Mazda, Styled Aesthetic, Fred Thomas Resort, Team USA Scholarship, among others.

Photo: Team Pelfrey
Photo: Team Pelfrey

For O’Ward, the Indy Lights drive is a slight surprise as he’s also committed to a full season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship PC class with Performance Tech Motorsports, confirmed after he was part of the Brent O’Neill-led team’s victory at the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

O’Ward is the third consecutive driver confirmed to a St. Petersburg-only weekend with Team Pelfrey. Scott Hargrove was confirmed for the same role last year with Pelfrey and in 2015 with the team’s former incarnation as 8Star Motorsports. Hargrove continued through the month of May with Pelfrey last year but only raced at St. Petersburg in 2015.

With O’Ward’s eight-race IMSA schedule, there’s only one conflict weekend between PC races and Indy Lights, the weekend of July 8-9. PC races at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Indy Lights at Iowa Speedway both on July 9.

Interestingly, O’Ward parlayed a first two weekends-only announced deal into an eventual full-time role with Team Pelfrey in Pro Mazda last year, so he’s got experience in succeeding despite no guarantee of further races. As last year, he carries support from Gap Guard and Topo Chico.

“I am back with Team Pelfrey in Indy Lights for the first official Series test and for the first race of the season in St. Petersburg,” said O’Ward, whose teammate is the very experienced Juan Piedrahita. “A big thank you goes to the creator of Gap Guard, better known as Dale Pelfrey, once again for the opportunity and the whole Team Pelfrey crew as well for the continuous support they have given me the last few years.”

“We are very excited to confirm Pato on the Indy Lights front,” added Team Pelfrey IL team manager, Gary Neal. “Not only does this mean we have an exceptionally talented driver, but it’s also great to see the Team Pelfrey ladder system in full swing. We are looking forward to a strong outing at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.”

Three other Mazda Road to Indy signings have come in in the last few days, as well:

  • Team Pelfrey rounds out its three-car Pro Mazda lineup with Russian driver Nikita Lastochkin and Brazilian driver Carlos Cunha joining the previously announced TJ Fischer, the young Californian. Cunha has Formula 3 Brazil experience while Lastochkin steps up after two years in USF2000.
  • Exclusive Autosport rounds out its three-car USF2000 lineup with karting veteran Dev Gore joining a pair of third-year drivers in Parker Thompson and Luke Gabin.

Testing continues today and tomorrow at Homestead-Miami Speedway.