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Blackstock set for third Indy Lights season with switch to Belardi

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Shelby Blackstock will continue into a third Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season, with the 26-year-old American shifting from a five-year run with Andretti Autosport through all three rungs of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires to Belardi Auto Racing for 2017.

Blackstock is the second confirmed driver in Indy Lights next season, after 2016 teammate Dalton Kellett, who continues with Andretti into 2017.

Other confirmations figure to come after the Thanksgiving holiday this week, and with the PRI Show in Indianapolis on the horizon in December, there could well be more around then.

Belardi starred in 2016, as Zach Veach and Felix Rosenqvist each won three races this year, and the six races were the most by any team in the series.

As for Blackstock, he’d tested with Belardi in 2015 and has recently done so again this fall. He had tested with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports at the Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test in Indianapolis in October, prior to that team announcing last week it would cease operations in Indy Lights next season.

Car count-wise though, Belardi team principal Brian Belardi is looking to potentially expand Belardi from two cars, which ran at most races in 2016, up to a third in 2017. Blackstock’s veteran presence will help whoever else Belardi can bring on board.

“We tested Shelby during the summer of 2015 and he responded by immediately scoring his best finish of the year for the team he was with,” Belardi said in a release, speaking of Blackstock’s podium finish at Mid-Ohio 2015. “He worked extremely well with our engineers back then, and we were impressed in our recent test at Barber Motorsports Park as well. It’s exciting to have him signed to the team for 2017. He’ll be a great addition to our family.”

Blackstock added of the switch, “Going into the 2017 season, there are going to be many changes and challenges to overcome. One of the biggest changes and, something I’m very excited about, is that I’ll be joining Belardi Auto Racing for the 2017 Indy Lights season!

“I have a brief history with the team from 2015, which made the move from Andretti Autosport a bit easier. Belardi has proven to have quick cars and I really like how the team is organized.  There will be a lot of different challenges in the 2017 season. The field will be very stout, as it has in the past, so I’m really excited to see how the team pushes me and how we tackle each challenge together! I’m very thankful and excited for this opportunity and can’t wait to get to work!”

WATCH LIVE: IndyCar Carb Day coverage on NBCSN

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It’s Carb Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And that means hours of coverage for IndyCar fans, just days away from the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500.

Coverage on NBCSN will include the Indy Lights Firestone 100 at 1 p.m. ET, a live edition of NASCAR America from Indianapolis Motor Speedway at 3:30 p.m. ET with Krista Voda, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Steve Letarte, A.J. Allmendinger and Marty Snider, and new Indy-centric episodes of Proving Grounds and Off The Grid. Jake Query will call the Indy Lights Firestone 100 alongside analyst Anders Krohn and pit reporter Katie Hargitt.

Click here to watch online or on the NBC Sports app.

All this leads up to Sunday’s race (11 am ET on NBC), but don’t forget about Saturday’s Indy 500 parade coverage, which you can watch on NBC Sports Gold.