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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.”

Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew ready for IndyCar ride

Road to Indy
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Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew has done nothing but dominate the 2019 season, winning seven of the 16 races run so far and finishing on the podium in all but two of those events.

Now all the 22-year-old Floridian needs to do to formally clinch the 2019 title is simply start the final two races of the season, both of which will be held this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

For Askew, his maiden Indy Lights season will likely be one he’ll never forget. 

“It’s been a dream come true,” Askew told NBC Sports. “Being with the championship-winning team from last year, we had a really good shot at winning it again for Andretti Autosport. It’s very rare that we show up to a track and struggle to find speed. 

“That’s a fantastic feeling, especially as a driver. That gave me a lot of confidence and hopes of holding the million dollar check at the end of the year. That was the goal going into it.”

This weekend, Askew will accomplish said goal. The championship will not only bring him a sense of pride, but also the opportunity of a lifetime. 

As an award for being crowned the Indy Lights champion, Askew will be awarded a scholarship that guarantees him entry into a minimum of three NTT IndyCar Series events next year – including the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. 

Time will only tell which team Askew will race for in IndyCar next season, and whether or not Askew’s rookie campaign will be a full-time or part-time affair, but Askew’s performance during the last few seasons in the Road to Indy system has certainly drawn attention of IndyCar’s top team owners.

In August, Askew had the chance to drive an Indy car for the first time in his career during a test session at Portland International Raceway, driving the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda usually piloted by Scott Dixon.

“It was an opportunity with Chip Ganassi Racing that I was very fortunate to have,” Askew said. “I think with my experience in the past couple of years with Cape Motorsports and this year with Andretti Autosport, going into that test was very helpful.

“Going into the test, it was more of trying to treat it as just another day at the racetrack, when it really wasn’t. It was a fantastic opportunity for me – a great experience – and I hope I can take that into my rookie season next year in IndyCar.” 

The final two races of the 2019 Indy Lights season will take place this weekend on Saturday, September 21 at 6 p.m. ET and Sunday, September 22 at 12:05 p.m. ET. Both races will air live on NBC Sports Gold.

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