Third in a series providing an inside look at drivers involved in the Mazda Road to Indy
Few drivers can claim the ability to filet a bluegill in 25 seconds, but that statistic begins to tell the story of Wisconsin native Aaron Telitz, who grew up on a fishing resort and began cleaning fish for resort guests at the age of 8.
Known for his engaging personality as well as his driving skills, Telitz hopes to take the lessons learned in two solid seasons in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda to continue his climb up the Mazda Road to Indy ladder. In the meantime, he’s employing a creative way to search for prospective sponsors.
“The racing schedule was crazy,” said Telitz, “but we had a lull in July, between Toronto and Mid-Ohio. My girlfriend suggested I start caddying at the country club, so I did. I’ve played golf all my life so I knew what I was doing. It’s called the Minikahda Club in Minneapolis and it’s a really great place. I use this to meet new people, tell them my story, what I’m trying to do and see if I can find any help. It’s been good so far. I’ve met a few people who are interested in what I’m doing so we’ll see what happens in the offseason. Pro Mazda is the next logical step, so I’m looking at whichever team I fit best with and then raising the budget to do it.”
Teltiz began racing go karts in Eau Claire, Wis., at age 8, moving into road racing karts at age 15. Earning a scholarship from the Skip Barber Karting Shootout in 2012, Telitz won four races and finished second overall in the 2012/13 Skip Barber Winter Series. He moved up to F1600 in 2013, ending the season third in the championship. He also won the Skip Barber Championship Shootout which earned him a $200,000 Mazda scholarship to race in USF2000 in 2014. Telitz again made good use of the scholarship, finishing fourth in the championship and earning Rookie of the Year honors.
Returning to USF2000 in 2015 with plans to chase for the championship, Telitz’s title hopes were derailed by the juggernaut that was Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammate Nico Jamin, who earned 10 victories and 13 pole positions. But as much as Jamin dominated, 2015 will long be remembered as the season of “Nico-Aaron-Jake.” Half the 16 race podiums featured the three racers, with 40 of the 48 available podium spots taken up by the trio. Telitz earned his share, with one pole, one win and 11 podium finishes to take third in the championship. Now the time has come to decide on the next step.
“I love open-wheel racing and I feel that the best way for a young American driver to get into open wheel is the Mazda Road to Indy, so that was my plan from the beginning,” said Telitz. “I won the Skip Barber scholarship in 2013 and that was my path into USF2000. I couldn’t do this without the Mazda Road to Indy and how much recognition it has. People know that the competition is higher and the cars are closer in performance, so if you’re doing well here, you’re a pretty good driver. That’s what you want people to know about you, that you can get out there and wheel the car to the best of its ability.”
Also adding significantly to the Telitz experience meter was a stint racing in England a year ago, as a Team USA Scholarship winner. He competed in the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch and Walter Hayes Trophy at Silverstone. He acquitted himself well, driving for Cliff Dempsey Racing and taking three pole positions and winning a heat and semifinal race.
“Team USA was an awesome opportunity,” Telitz noted. “It was a great experience. Driving in Europe is so different from driving here: drivers are a lot more aggressive and the rules of what you can and can’t do on the racetrack are perhaps not as strict as they are over here. It was a new experience and it went well. I felt as though I should have won the final. I tried to make a pretty crazy pass for the lead and went off into the gravel. But I felt that I was there to learn and the final was a one-race deal, so I decided to just go for it.”
“A few weeks before the season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Charles Crews from Juncos Racing called me and said they were doing a one-day test at Sonoma and he wanted me to be part of it,” said Telitz. “I figured, why not? It would be a good chance to get my first taste of a Pro Mazda car, the car I want to be driving next year. I got fitted in the car after the season finale, then headed up to Sonoma. I got comfortable in the car in the first session and by the end of the day I was the fastest. It was a great first day.
“I think Pro Mazda is a good next step. There wasn’t anything that surprised me. The car has more power, it brakes better, it has more downforce and the tires have more grip. As far as I’m concerned, it isn’t a huge step. There were just a few things I had to get used to, like not lifting when you shift. And the car brakes so much better; you can go into a corner faster but you brake later than you would in the USF2000 car. The first few laps out there, I would brake where I usually would in the USF2000 car and nearly come to a stop. But I got used to it quickly. It handles well, the car makes good power and it’s a lot of fun to drive.”