Telitz, Belardi plan for encore campaign in Indy Lights

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Aaron Telitz and Belardi Auto Racing have announced their intent to run the full 2018 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season, with a partial budget already procured and a bit more still to find.

The Birchwood, Wis. native who now lives in Minneapolis book-ended the season in Indy Lights with wins at St. Petersburg in his debut, and at Watkins Glen in the rain – both of which were standout performances to the IndyCar paddock. He finished sixth in points, and third among a deep rookie field that also included Colton Herta (his baseball rival) and Matheus Leist.

Telitz is the first Indy Lights driver officially announced for 2018, but is one of several expected for the Belardi, Andretti Autosport and Juncos Racing teams. Further confirmation of those will come in the new year.

As noted, Telitz currently has a partial budget for the season, and he and his management team continue talks with prospective marketing partners. The 26-year-old is confirmed to start the season, and will once again be paired with Brian Belardi’s staff of experienced race engineers to pick up where they left off last year, having dominated the wet weather action in the season finale at Watkins Glen.

“It’s a great feeling to be coming back with Belardi Auto Racing to have another go at the Indy Lights Championship,” Telitz enthused. “This will be the first time in my career that I get to drive for the same team in back-to-back years. The continuity is already there and we will be a force from the drop of the green flag at St. Pete.”

“As always, funding could be a limiting factor for me this season as I will be working to finish out my budget throughout the season,” he added. “Brian has been gracious enough to work with me and figure out how we can make it work this year. I want to offer a massive thanks to my long-time partner Rice Lake Weighing Systems, who have been with me since Formula Fords and continue to ensure my racing career is able to flourish. Also thanks to Morrie’s Auto Group, PPG, Assured Automotive, Styled Aesthetic, Liberty Engineering, and Bell Helmets, who are all on-board to assist in my run at the championship in 2018. I know that we will have our work cut out for us, but I’m confident that we can get the job done and bring the Driver Championship back to Belardi in 2018!”

Telitz will look to go for the title in his second season. One of the more successful drivers on the Mazda Road to Indy, Telitz has 10 wins among Indy Lights, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires (where he won the 2016 title) and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series. The Pro Mazda title netted him the Soul Red colors this past season. He paid it forward by putting forth a self-imposed carbon fee on his racing program.

Belardi, who still plans to run three and potentially four cars in Indy Lights next season, is enthused about having at least one of his 2017 drivers back.

“I’m incredibly excited about how our team is developing for 2018, and being able to run Aaron again next year is such a huge positive for our organization,” he said. “As a rookie last year, he showed us his talents immediately, winning the opener at St. Petersburg. As he continued to develop in the car, he became even more impressive. I believe that his performance in the rain at Watkins Glen is a real indication of just how good Aaron is and how good he could become. We’re thrilled to have him back.”

Ganassi announces multiyear sponsorship extension with American Legion for No. 10

Chip Ganassi American Legion
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Chip Ganassi Racing announced a new primary sponsorship deal with The American Legion this week, shoring up the funding on its No. 10 Dallara-Honda of Alex Palou.

The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion primarily had driven with NTT Data sponsorship the past two seasons. But NTT Data will move next season to McLaren Racing as a primary sponsor for Felix Rosenqvist in 10 races and on the Indy 500 car of Tony Kanaan (who drove an American Legion car for Ganassi at the Brickyard last year).

It was the latest twist in a McLaren-Ganassi saga that included a contract dispute for the services of Palou (who is expected to move to McLaren in 2024 after reaching an agreement to race with Ganassi next year).

Ganassi stayed within its own walls to help plug the sponsorship gap left by NTT Data, re-signing The American Legion to a multiyear extension. The Indianapolis-based non-profit organization, which has been sponsoring Ganassi cars for the past few seasons, also will be associated with other Ganassi drivers, including Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson and development driver Kyffin Simpson in Indy NXT.

The Ganassi organization will continue promoting The American Legion’s “Be The One” campaign aimed at reducing veteran suicides. The team launched an online auction for the initiative this week.

“Supporting our nation’s veterans is of immense importance to our organization and we are humbled to continue supporting The American Legion’s mission in ending veteran suicide,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a release. “We will do absolutely everything we can to help veterans get the support they need while raising public awareness of the ‘Be The One’ platform.”

“We have received an overwhelming amount of support from fans, active-duty military members and veterans as a result of this partnership and we’re pleased to see it grow,” said Dean Kessel, chief marketing officer at The American Legion. “Thanks to the continuous collaboration with the team’s other partners, and the promotion of the ‘Be The One’ initiative, we are discovering more ways to engage with the military community than ever before. We want all veterans to know that it’s okay to ask for help.”