Aaron Telitz has one goal in mind for this weekend’s Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires doubleheader at Road America: win.
Although that’s the main objective for any race, this one holds more weight for the 25-year-old Wisconsin native because, simply put, it’s his home track.
“I’m so excited to get back there,” said Telitz, driver of the No. 9 Mazda/Rice Lake Weighing Systems Mazda/Dallara IL-15 for Belardi Auto Racing.
“We did a test there a couple of weeks ago, loved it in the Indy Lights car. I think it’s going to be a good track for me as it’s been in the past.”
The track located at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, is where Telitz got his Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires campaign back on track last year, winning both races in the doubleheader round on his way to claiming the championship and Mazda scholarship that promoted him to Indy Lights this season.
A nine-time race winner in the Mazda Road to Indy stepladder, sanctioned by INDYCAR, Telitz won his Indy Lights debut in the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg in March. Despite a rough stretch where he mustered only a pair of top-five finishes in five races after the win, Telitz recovered for a runner-up finish in the Freedom 100 last month on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.
With that, Telitz sits tied for fourth in the championship standings with Neil Alberico after seven of 16 races and trails leader Kyle Kaiser by 29 points.
“Looking back on it, coming out of the box so strong and winning that first race might not have been the greatest thing for me in the long run,” Telitz admitted, “because maybe you take it easier and think things are going to come easy for you, but then they obviously didn’t.
“At Barber, we struggled as a team to have good speed and good luck. Then, at the Indy road course, it was a lot of the same. So we took a step back and looked at what we needed to adjust as a team and then went into the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a full head of steam and ready to go.”
Widely popular with many drivers, the aspiring Verizon IndyCar Series couldn’t hide his love for Road America, the 4.014-mile, 14-turn permanent road course that’s so special to him.
“It’s just such a cool old school track, right?” said Telitz, originally from Rice Lake in northwestern Wisconsin. “I mean, it’s old. It hasn’t been altered in any way. The walls are still pretty close in some spots. It’s a narrow track. The surface is bumpy in some areas and the curbs are unique to anywhere else you go, so it’s got a lot of its own feel to it, which I just love.
“It being my home track, I’ve driven there a lot and have a lot of laps around there in a lot of different vehicles. It’s just been a great track for me my entire life.”
Telitz makes no bones about the fact that an Indy Lights win this weekend at Road America would be the biggest victory of his racing career to this point.
“Yeah, I think it would be,” he said. “Winning in front of your home crowd, in front of friends, family and all your sponsors that come down, that means a lot to me. Winning the first race of the year was awesome, but to me, winning at Road America would be bigger than that, for sure.”
Telitz ranked fourth in this morning’s opening practice at Road America with a best lap of 1 minute, 54.1995 seconds (126.536 mph). Points leader Kaiser was fastest in the No. 18 Juncos Racing Mazda/Dallara IL-15 with a lap of 1:53.8761 (126.896 mph). Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing’s Colton Herta did not turn a lap in the No. 98 Deltro Energy Mazda due to mechanical issues.
Qualifying for Race 1 begins at 3:30 p.m. ET today. Qualifying for Race 2 is set for 8:50 a.m. Saturday. Race 1 takes place at 1 p.m. Saturday and Race 2 at 9:45 a.m. Sunday. All sessions will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.