AdvoCare 500

Everything you need to know for Sunday’s Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta

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Boasting a rough surface and multiple grooves, the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway puts on some of the better racing among other tracks of its kind in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

This weekend, the Cup circus visits Atlanta for another critical moment in the Race to the Chase.

Barring something cataclysmic, Matt Kenseth looks like he’s set to go into the post-season, wins or no wins.

But those final three spots on the Chase Grid – currently occupied by Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, and Greg Biffle – aren’t quite spoken for with two regular season races to go.

With time running short for those on the Chase bubble, Sunday’s Oral-B USA 500 should have its fair share of drama. Courtesy of NASCAR’s statistics and public relations teams, here’s everything you need to know for Round 25 of the 2014 Cup championship…

ATLANTA-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Marcos Ambrose (No. 9 STANLEY Ford)
· One top 10
· Average finish of 20.3
· Average Running Position of 20.5, 23rd-best
· Driver Rating of 68.1, 23rd-best
· 8 Fastest Laps Run, 34th-most
· 739 Green Flag Passes, 19th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 170.119 mph, 23rd-fastest
· 876 Laps in the Top 15 (33.4%), 22nd-most
· 208 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), 21st-most

Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ortho Fire Ant Killer Ford)
· Three top fives, nine top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.9
· Average Running Position of 13.7, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 91.3, 11th-best
· 237 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· 993 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 170.998 mph, 13th-fastest
· 3,301 Laps in the Top 15 (67.3%), sixth-most
· 518 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Clint Bowyer (No. 15 SpeedDigital.com Toyota)
· Five top 10s
· Average finish of 19.8
· Average Running Position of 15.7, 16th-best
· Driver Rating of 84.8, 15th-best
· 76 Fastest Laps Run, 15th-most
· 865 Green Flag Passes, 13th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 171.054 mph, 11th-fastest
· 2,444 Laps in the Top 15 (57.5%), 15th-most
· 358 Quality Passes, 17th-most

Austin Dillon (No. 3 Dow Chevrolet)
· Average finish of 19.0
· Average Running Position of 20.6, 24th-best
· Driver Rating of 67.3, 24th-best
· 1 Fastest Laps Run, 44th-most
· 86 Green Flag Passes, 45th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 169.903 mph, 26th-fastest
· 1 Laps in the Top 15 (.3%), 47th-most
· 1 Quality Passes, 43rd-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Home Depot Husky Toyota)
· Eight top fives, 14 top 10s
· Average finish of 12.7
· Average Running Position of 12.8, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 96.5, fifth-best
· 190 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most
· 1,018 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 171.262 mph, sixth-fastest
· 3,415 Laps in the Top 15 (69.7%), fifth-most
· 528 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Cessna Chevrolet)
· Four top 10s
· Average finish of 20.0
· Average Running Position of 19.2, 22nd-best
· Driver Rating of 73.7, 22nd-best
· Series-high 1,145 Green Flag Passes
· 1,965 Laps in the Top 15 (40.1%), 18th-most
· 407 Quality Passes, 15th-most

Paul Menard (No. 27 Duracell/Menards Chevrolet)
· One top five, three top 10s
· Average finish of 20.7
· Average Running Position of 23.3, 27th-best
· Driver Rating of 63.6, 26th-best
· 899 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· 827 Laps in the Top 15 (21.1%), 24th-most
· 208 Quality Passes, 21st-most

Ryan Newman (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet)
· Two top fives, seven top 10s; seven poles
· Average finish of 17.7
· Average Running Position of 18.6, 20th-best
· Driver Rating of 74.1, 21st-best
· 1,077 Green Flag Passes, third-most
· 1,742 Laps in the Top 15 (35.5%), 19th-most
· 346 Quality Passes, 19th-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet)
· Three wins, 10 top fives, 15 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 11.7
· Average Running Position of 11.4, third-best
· Driver Rating of 100.2, third-best
· 800 Green Flag Passes, 16th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 171.240 mph, seventh-fastest
· 3,231 Laps in the Top 15 (70.6%), seventh-most
· 490 Quality Passes, 10th-most

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet)
· Two top fives, four top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 20.3
· Average Running Position of 11.7, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 91.4, 10th-best
· 890 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 171.359 mph, fourth-fastest
· 3,517 Laps in the Top 15 (76.8%), fourth-most
· 559 Quality Passes, second-most

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Atlanta Motor Speedway Data
Season Race #: 25 of 36 (08-31-14)
Track Size: 1.54-miles
Banking/Turn 1 & 2: 24 degrees
Banking/Turn 3 & 4: 24 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 5 degrees
Banking/Backstretch: 5 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 2,332 feet
Backstretch Length: 1,800 feet
Race Length: 325 laps / 500.5 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Atlanta
Jeff Gordon………………………… 105.6
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 104.8
Tony Stewart……………………….. 100.2
Carl Edwards………………………. 100.0
Matt Kenseth………………………… 96.5
Denny Hamlin……………………….. 96.2
Kurt Busch……………………………. 94.5
Kyle Busch…………………………… 94.4
Dale Earnhardt Jr…………………… 93.3
Martin Truex Jr………………………. 91.4
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (15 total) among active drivers at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 pole winner: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 189.688 mph, 29.227 secs., 08-30-13
2013 race winner: Kyle Busch, Toyota, 135.128 mph, (03:42:14), 08-30-13
Track qualifying record: Geoffrey Bodine, Ford, 197.478 mph, 28.074 secs., 11-15-97
Track race record: Bobby Labonte, Pontiac, 159.904 mph, (03:07:48), 11-16-97

Atlanta Motor Speedway History
· Originally called Atlanta International Raceway, the track was then a 1.5-mile paved speedway.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta was on July 31, 1960, won by Fireball Roberts from the pole.
· The track was re-measured to 1.522 miles in the spring of 1970.
· It was renamed Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1990.
· The track layout was reversed and the track was re-configured to 1.54 miles between the two races in 1997.

Atlanta Motor Speedway Notebook
· There have been 106 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Atlanta Motor Speedway since the first race there in 1960. Until 2010 there have been two races per year except 1961, which had three. This year marks the third season with only one event.
· 544 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway; 364 in more than one.
· Richard Petty leads the series in starts at Atlanta with 65. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 40 starts, followed by Joe Nemechek with 37.
· Fireball Roberts won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Atlanta in 1960 with a speed of 133.870 mph.
· 47 drivers have Coors Light poles at Atlanta, led by Buddy Baker and Ryan Newman with seven each.
· Winning consecutive Coors Light poles has happened eight times at Atlanta, among six drivers.
· Ryan Newman holds the record for most consecutive poles at Atlanta with six; spring of 2003 through 2005.
· Youngest Atlanta pole winner: Terry Labonte (03/15/1981 – 24 years, 3 months, 27 days).
· Oldest Atlanta pole winner: Harry Gant (11/14/1993 – 53 years, 10 months, 4 days).
· 43 different NSCS drivers have won at Atlanta Motor Speedway, led by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt with nine wins. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with five.
· 11 drivers have posted consecutive wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway: Marvin Panch (1965 sweep), Bobby Allison (1972 sweep), David Pearson (1973 sweep), Richard Petty (1974 fall, 1975 spring), Cale Yarborough (1980 fall, 1981 spring), Bill Elliott (1985 sweep; 1992 sweep), Dale Earnhardt (1989 fall, 1990 spring; 1995 fall, 1996 spring), Bobby Labonte (1997 fall, 1998 spring), Jeff Gordon (1998 fall, 1999 spring), Carl Edwards (2005 sweep), Jimmie Johnson (2007 sweep)
· Youngest Atlanta winner: Kyle Busch (03/09/2008 – 22 years, 10 months, 7 days).
· Oldest Atlanta winner: Morgan Shepherd (03/20/1993 – 51 years, 5 months, 8 days).
· The Wood Brothers have the most wins at Atlanta in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 12: Cale Yarborough (three), David Pearson (three), Marvin Panch (two), Neil Bonnett (two) A.J. Foyt (one) and Morgan Shepherd (one). Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports are tied for the second most wins at Atlanta with 11 each.
· Nine different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Atlanta; led by Chevrolet with 37 victories; followed by Ford with 29. Toyota has three wins at Atlanta.
· 14 of the 106 (13.2%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Atlanta have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Kasey Kahne in 2006.
· The fifth starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (15) than any other starting position at Atlanta Motor Speedway; the most recent was Jeff Gordon in 2011.
· 26 of the 106 (24.5%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Atlanta have been won from the front row: 14 from the pole and 12 from second-place.
· 60 of the 106 (56.6%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Atlanta have been won from a top-five starting position.
· 84 of the 106 (79.2%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Atlanta have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· Seven of the 106 (6.6%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Atlanta have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Atlanta is 39th, by Bobby Labonte in the fall of 2001.
· No driver has swept the weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway across all three NASCAR national series. Two drivers have won in multiple NASCAR national series in the same weekend at Atlanta: Carl Edwards (2005, NSCS/NNS); (fall 2008, NSCS/NNS) and Kyle Busch (spring 2008, NSCS/NCWTS)
· Dale Earnhardt and David Pearson lead the series in runner-up finishes at Atlanta with seven each; Jeff Gordon leads all active driverswith five.
· Dale Earnhardt leads the series in top-five finishes at Atlanta with 26; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 16.
· Richard Petty leads the series in top-10 finishes at Atlanta with 33; Jeff Gordon leads all active driverswith 25.
· Ryan Newman leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Atlanta with a 7.571.
· Tony Stewart leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at 11.654.
· Nine of the 10 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners at Atlanta Motor Speedway participated in at least one or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Kevin Harvick won at Atlanta in his first appearance (2001). Carl Edwards won in his second appearance (2005).
· Denny Hamlin competed at Atlanta Motor Speedway 12 times before winning in the spring of 2012; the longest span of any the 10 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners.
· Among the 10 active NSCS Atlanta winners Denny Hamlin (12) is the only driver to have made 10 or more attempts before his first win.
· Joe Nemechek leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Atlanta without visiting Victory Lane at 37; followed by Matt Kenseth with 25.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway was the March 11, 2001 race won by Kevin Harvick over Jeff Gordon with a MOV of 0.006 second.
· There have been three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway (Scheduled No. of Laps/Actual No. of Laps): fall of 2007 (325/329); spring of 2010 (325/341) and fall of 2012 (325/327).
· Four of the 88 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Michigan International Speedway have been shortened due to weather conditions; the most recent was the event on 6/18/2006.
· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway five times; most recently the fall of 2010.
· One active driver has posted his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway: Terry Labonte (3/15/1981).
· Two active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have posted their first career start at Atlanta Motor Speedway: Jeff Gordon (11/15/1992) and Martin Truex Jr. (10/31/2004).
· Two active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have posted their first career win at Atlanta Motor Speedway: Kevin Harvick (3/11/2001) and Carl Edwards (3/20/2005).
· Cale Yarborough leads all drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Atlanta with 3,283 laps led in 47 starts. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in laps led at Atlanta with 1,297.
· Three female drivers have competed at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Janet Guthrie, Shawna Robinson and Danica Patrick.
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NASCAR in Georgia
· There have been 165 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races among 12 different tracks in Georgia.
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· 178 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Georgia; 15 have won at least once in one of NASCAR’s national series.
· 11 of the 178 have posted at least one victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
· Bill Elliott (five wins) is the only Georgia native to have won at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
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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.