Team scores three podium finishes highlighted by Urrutia win and Blackstock’s third
MANSFIELD, OHIO (July 30, 2017) – Belardi Auto Racing enjoyed a tremendously successful weekend in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires events held at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, winning the opening race of the doubleheader with Santiago Urrutia. The team stepped it up again for Race 2 on Sunday, occupying two of the three podium steps as Shelby Blackstock finished third right behind his Uruguayan teammate. Urrutia was dominant for the opening race of the weekend on the challenging 2.258-mile, 13-turn natural terrain road course, qualifying on pole and then outrunning Colton Herta for the win; his first of the year and the team’s second. Urrutia was again quick on Sunday, taking second, while Blackstock delivered his best performance of the 2017 season to finish third. Aaron Telitz added to the success on Sunday, finishing fifth.
“Coming off a tough weekend in Toronto where we didn’t think we were able to achieve the results we deserved, the team’s performance at Mid-Ohio was exactly what we needed,” team owner Brian Belardi admitted. “We knew that Santi was eventually going to grab his first win of the year and he’s just very good at Mid-Ohio, and we’re all happy that he could get it done on Race 1. Sunday’s race was a success for us as well, even though we just missed out on another win. Shelby’s drive was his best of the year and Santi was smart not to throw away a second-place finish trying to overdrive to get past Nico (Jamin). He’s still in the championship fight now, although it’s going to take a couple of wins at Gateway and Watkins Glen.”
Urrutia made his statement immediately, topping the Friday morning practice session before qualifying on the pole for Race 1 with a time of 1:11.945, which was a half-second quicker than Jamin. Blackstock and Telitz were not on that pace from the start of the weekend, timing in ninth and tenth, but improvement would come. In Race 1 qualifying, Urrutia maintained his pace with a 1:11.369, dealing with the continually changing track conditions. Blackstock advanced up the order, benefitting from the team debrief after practice to qualify fourth, earning a spot on the outside of the second row for the 30-lap event. Telitz battled engine issues during practice and qualifying, so his seventh in the first qualifying session of the weekend was surprisingly decent.
Qualifying for the second race of the doubleheader took place on Saturday morning. Herta stepped up his game and nipped Santi for the pole by just over a tenth. Blackstock remained in the top-five, recording the fifth quickest lap, while Telitz fell to 11th, still struggling with motor problems.
Santi took the lead on the start of Race 1 on Saturday afternoon and was quickly embroiled in a hard-fought battle for the position with Herta, who was fully leveraging his stock of push-to-pass activations in an attempt to get by Urrutia. Santi held off the early challenges and also fended off a late-race charge to score his first win of the year. Blackstock fought all race long with Jamin and Zachary Claman Demelo, and after making a bid for third, settled into fourth through to the checkered flag. It was his best finish of the year, turning the fast lap of the race in the process, but he was set to go for more on Sunday. Telitz pressed as hard as he could, fought valiantly throughout the race and was rewarded with an eighth-place finish. Like Blackstock, he was set up for an improvement in Race 2.
The start of Race 2 was chaotic, as Herta found his way to the lead early as Urrutia settled into third behind Jamin. After Herta spun by himself cresting Turn 9 heading into Thunder Valley, Urrutia advanced to second to begin the chase. Santi closed on Jamin in the late going, activating his push-to-pass once he cut the gap to less than the necessary 1.5 seconds. He threw down everything he had to take the lead, but just couldn’t quite make the pass stick. Santi’s second place finish has put him into a tie for second in the championship standings, 42 points behind Kyle Kaiser with just two races remaining.
Blackstock completed a stellar weekend at Mid-Ohio, which was the site of his first Indy Lights podium in 2015. Shelby was chased by Claman Demelo all race long, but never flinched, finishing third to put two Belardi Auto Racing on the podium. Telitz also scored his best result of the weekend, turning in a heroic effort to finish fifth after tweaking his back midway through the race. Driving through immense shooting pain, he somehow maintained his razor-focus to make it to the checkered flag.
The Belardi Auto Racing team will now head back to the shop to get their Dallara IL-15s prepped for the final oval race of the season, which will be the series debut at Gateway Motorsports Park on August 25-26.
All the on-track action from Gateway will be streamed live on the Mazda Road to Indy app or through the MRTI.TV website (www.roadtoindy.tv), as will the entire Indy Lights season. You can also follow along on www.indylights.com andwww.indycar.com. Be sure to follow Belardi Auto Racing on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay updated on all the action.
BELARDI AUTO RACING – DRIVER RESULTS AND QUOTES
INDY LIGHTS – ROUNDS 13/14 – JULY 28-30, 2017
MID-OHIO SPORTS CAR COURSE – MANSFIELD, OHIO
SANTIAGO URRUTIA – #5
Qualifying 1: 1:11.369
Qualifying 2: 1:11.226
Race 1: Start – 1st / Finish – 1st
Race 2: Start – 2nd / Finish – 2nd
Driver Quote: ““This weekend was good, getting the win in Race 1 and then fighting from the outside of row one in Race 2 and coming home in the second position. It was a good weekend for sure, and knowing the points leader didn’t finish well means we must win to gain spots in the championship. Over the next three races, we need to win and wait for the results. The team did a great job, the Belardi guys have been working so hard, and I’m so happy. Thank you to them and all my sponsors.”
AARON TELITZ – #9
Qualifying 1: 1:12.479
Qualifying 2: 1:12.571
Race 1: Start – 7th / Finish – 8th
Race 2: Start – 11th / Finish – 5th
Driver Quote: “I am really pleased with our teamwork this weekend. The Belardi Auto Racing guys gave all of us awesome cars every session. Unfortunately, we battled engine problems in qualifying, which left us starting down the order for both races. I was in full attack mode for race two and drove up to fifth to end the weekend on a high note!”
SHELBY BLACKSTOCK – #51
Qualifying 1: 1:12.198
Qualifying 2: 1:11.764
Race 1: Start – 4th/ Finish – 4th
Race 2: Start – 5th / Finish – 3rd
Driver Quote: ““I like Mid-Ohio a lot, it’s a driver’s track, very technical and very fast. I’ve always done well here because this track just suits me. We came out of the gate fast, plus I know the tricks and trades to it. It’s physical, but it was great getting P4 in Race 1 and a podium in Race 2. This is the first weekend that things went smoothly and the team worked hard as a group. Thank you to all Belardi Auto Racing and all my sponsors.”