Changing conditions and horrible luck dampen results but not the team’s resolve
BIRMINGHAM, AL (April 25, 2017) – After a great start to the season in St. Petersburg in March, the Belardi Auto Racing crew had to dig in their heels this past weekend at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. The team’s initial set-up missed the mark slightly, and with the high level of competition in the field, they began the weekend further down the order than normal. Bad luck and poor decision-making by the competition turned the tide for the worse, although two of the three team’s drivers were able to salvage decent points. Race #1 winner Aaron Telitz took advantage of a washed-out Sunday qualifying session to start third and finish fifth in Race 2. Shelby Blackstock was the most consistent on the team, posting a pair of top-10s with finishes of seventh and eighth to maintain a position in the top-six of the championship standings. Santiago Urrutia was driven over by Pato O’Ward in Race #1 and suffered a spin in Race #2, and is now fully focused on the next round of the series.
“Our weekend just didn’t start as we had hoped, but the team worked extremely hard to evolve our set-up for the first qualifying session and for the opening race,” offered Brian Belardi, Belardi Auto Racing team owner. “Santi (Urrutia) found the speed he needed and hustled his car to fourth in Race 1 qualifying, but the start of the race was truly indicative of our weekend as a whole when he got driven over on the waived-off start. That just added insult to injury. I’ll give props to Shelby for driving the wheels off his car all weekend to get a couple of top-10s and Aaron logged a solid fifth on Sunday. I know my guys, and we’ll be coming back strong at the Indianapolis Grand Prix in May.”
In Saturday’s qualifying session, the team continued to make adjustments to get closer to the balance that all three drivers needed. While most of the competition leveraged three sets of sticker Cooper tires in an effort to qualify up the order for Race 1, the Belardi engineering staff elected to use only two new sets, which would give them an advantage for Sunday morning qualifying. Urrutia turned in the best time, posting a 1:13.4550 to sit fourth in the qualifying order. Blackstock was next in line, as his lap of 1:14.1699 was good enough for 11th. Telitz continued to struggle with the overall balance of his race car and ended up an uncharacteristic 13th.
At the start of Race 1, the green flag was aborted at the last minute and the resultant chaos ended Urrutia’s chances at a podium when Team Pelfrey’s Pato O’Ward climbed over Santi’s left rear tire and damaged his rear wing. Urrutia was forced to pit to replace the wing, which was a lengthy process, and after losing so many laps, they used a portion of the race to work on the set-up for Sunday. Blackstock settled into a groove once the race restarted and did a masterful job in out-gunning O’Ward for seventh, while Telitz soldiered on finish 13th.
The bad luck continued for Belardi Auto Racing on Sunday morning when rain arrived, washing out the qualifying session. The rain negated the advantage of the two sets of sticker tires that they had saved, and put everyone on new rubber for the race on Sunday afternoon, which took place in dry conditions. The scuttled qualifying session prompted the grid to be set by point standings, which put Telitz on the inside of row two and he leveraged that opportunity fully, coming home in fifth to salvage much-needed points. Blackstock ran well all race long, getting past Andretti’s Dalton Kellett in the late going to finish eighth. Urrutia had another rough run when he spun after slight contact with Blackstock on lap three, but once he got back going, he blistered the track to turn the fastest lap of the race, which earned him a very valuable bonus point.
The Belardi Auto Racing hauler is now back home in the team’s Brownsburg, Indiana shop and the crew will remain in the state for the entire month of May for the two upcoming events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The next event on the 2017 Indy Lights schedule is the Indianapolis Grand Prix on the track’s 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course on May 11-13. The month will cap with the prestigious Freedom 100, which takes place on Carb Day (May 26) and the full 2.5-mile IMS oval.
All the on-track action from Indianapolis will be streamed live on the Mazda Road to Indy app or through the MRTI.TV website (www.roadtoindy.tv), as will the entire Indy Lights season. Be sure to follow Belardi Auto Racing on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay updated on all the action.
BELARDI AUTO RACING – DRIVER RESULTS AND QUOTES
INDY LIGHTS – ROUND 3 & 4 – April 20 -23, 2017
GRAND PRIX OF Alabama – Birmingham, AL
SANTIAGO URRUTIA – #5
Qualifying 1: 4th – 1:13.1699
Qualifying 2: 2nd – Session rained out – grid set by points
Race #1: Start – 4th / Finish – 15th
Race #2: Start – 2nd / Finish –13th
Driver Quote: “I wished for so much more this weekend, especially with our new driver development partnership with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports being announced. I feel that we worked hard and found speed through the practice and qualifying sessions, but getting hit from behind at the start of the first race really changed my entire weekend. Sunday’s rain eliminated our advantage with the second set of sticker tires, and I pushed as hard as I could in the race after having to start so deep in the field when they set the grid by points. Early in the race, I was making a move to the inside of Shelby on turn two and he didn’t see me and just clipped my wing. I hit the brakes to avoid hitting him and the car just spun. After that, I pushed as hard as I could and at least I posted the fastest lap of the race. I may need that bonus point later in the year as I fight for the championship.”
AARON TELITZ – #9
Qualifying 1: 13th – 1:13.3774
Qualifying 2: – Session rained out – grid set by points
Race #1: Start – 13th / Finish – 13th
Race #2: Start – 4th / Finish – 5th
“This weekend is definitely one to learn from! It wasn’t the results that we were looking for, but we will learn from it and grow as a team, so that we can get back on the form that we had at St. Pete. You’ll see the Belardi cars back upfront at the Indianapolis Grand Prix.”
SHELBY BLACKSTOCK – #51
Qualifying 1: 11th – 1:14.1692
Qualifying 2: Session rained out – grid set by points
Race #1: Start –11th / Finish – 7th
Race #2: Start – 9th / Finish – 8th
“Our race weekend didn’t go exactly the way we planned. We lacked pace all weekend long and, in the end, we salvaged as many points as we could. Unfortunately, we fell to sixth in the championship, but we are still very much in the hunt! Putting rounds three and four behind us, we head into the greatest month in racing, the month of May!”
Direct Contact: Brian Belardi