After winning six races during the 2016 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season, Belardi Auto Racing has already shifted its focus to the upcoming 2017 season.
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.
The testing has let the team evaluate drivers for 2017, including Shelby Blackstock, who officially joined the team on Nov. 23.
“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,” said team owner Brian Belardi. “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, a 26-year-old native of Nashville, Tenn., is a five-year veteran of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires and brings considerable experience and an engaging personality to Belardi Auto Racing. Blackstock finished eighth overall in the 2016 Indy Lights championship standings.
He has climbed the MRTI ladder, beginning in USF2000 in 2012 before graduating to Pro Mazda in 2013, scoring a win at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Canada. Blackstock 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. The talented American said he hopes to continue Belardi’s trend of podiums and score his first series win.
“Going into the 2017 season, there are going to be many changes and challenges to overcome,” Blackstock said. “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.”