After winning six races during the 2016 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship, Belardi Auto Racing has by no means lifted off the throttle as they focus on the upcoming year. The 2014 championship winning squad has been aggressive in post-season testing and has put a trio of drivers through the paces, all while also working with Cooper Tires to develop next year’s spec tire compounds and construction. Based on this aggressive testing effort, the team is now pleased to confirm the signing of their first driver for the 2017 season. Nashville, Tennessee’s Shelby Blackstock is a Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires veteran and will bring his considerable experience and engaging personality to Belardi Auto Racing for the coming season. The talented American will be gunning for podiums and his first series win.
“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,” offered team owner Brian Belardi, speaking of Blackstock’s podium finish at Mid-Ohio. “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 tested with the team in Birmingham in early November, coming off a season in which he finished eighth overall in the championship standings. Shelby posted 13 top-10 and five top-five finishes, carding a best result of fourth at Barber Motorsports Park and in the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 26-year-old has worked his way up the entire MRTI, beginning in USF2000 in 2012 before graduating to Pro Mazda in 2013, scoring a win at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Canada. Shelby advanced to the Indy Lights series in 2015 and has spent that last two years running with Andretti Autosport in the top rung of the ladder.
“Going into the 2017 season, there are going to be many changes and challenges to overcome,” Blackstock enthused. “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!
The team will continue to focus on testing, as the opening round of the season at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is just over three months away. The 2017 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires schedule kicks off on March 10-12.