Just 13 months ago, Aaron Telitz was concluding his second season racing in the Cooper Tires presents USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda, where he would finish third in the point standings.
Fast forward to Saturday, when the Wisconsinite and now-reigning Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tires champion completed his rapid ascent from the bottom rung of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires developmental ladder to the top, making his Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires testing debut at the Chris Griffis Memorial Test on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. The opportunity gave Telitz his first run in a Dallara IL-15 chassis, testing with two teams as he works toward deciding his home for the 2017 Indy Lights season.
“Oh, the car is so cool,” Telitz raved about the Dallara IL-15, which was introduced in 2015. “It’s so much faster than anything I’ve ever driven in terms of acceleration, top speed, braking, cornering capabilities.”
The 24-year old scored six wins and 13 podium finishes in 16 Pro Mazda races to claim the 2016 title with Team Pelfrey. He will use the $601,700 Mazda scholarship earned from his championship to contest the 2017 Indy Lights season, with aim at winning another championship and scholarship that would earn him a chance to race in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.
Telitz noted the performance jump from Pro Mazda to Indy Lights, which he believes may be bigger than even the jump from an Indy Lights car to the Verizon IndyCar Series Dallara IR-12 chassis.
“I think (the step) into Indy Lights is the biggest step right now on the Mazda Road to Indy, because from Indy Lights to INDYCAR, the time (difference) during a lap is less than it is from Pro Mazda to Indy Lights. The car’s just really, really fast in Indy Lights and I’m enjoying it so far.”
Over the weekend, Telitz climbed aboard the No. 7 car for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and the No. 5 machine for Belardi Auto Racing, and took his first cuts in a Dallara IL-15, posting a fast lap of 1 minute, 15.1612 seconds (116.821 mph) on Sunday at the 2.439-mile permanent road course. He was the third-fastest driver in the two-day test.
“It’s a great way to see which guys you work with best at different teams,” said Telitz. “Obviously, teams have different atmospheres, engineers, mechanics, all the behind-the-scenes stuff that happens, so being able to hang out with both Belardi Auto Racing and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports before this test even came up was great insight.”
Telitz admitted there was a method to his approach in spending time with multiple teams, in hopes that one will help him claim the Indy Lights crown.
“It helps making a decision a little easier once you know exactly how the teams work and you’re comfortable with them,” he said. ‘That way you can make the best choice to go with the best team to get the most out of you.”