A win from pole on the shore of Lake Ontario gave super-sub Aaron Telitz all the ‘feels.’
“It feels good,” exclaimed the Belardi Auto Racing veteran to TSO Ladder after the race. “It feels really good! It feels nice! It feels right. I feel like I should have been on it (the top step of the podium) last year, but it never happened – and that sucked.”
The win is Telitz’s first since the final race of the 2017 season at Watkins Glen and his third career Indy Lights win. The Rice Lake, Wisc. native now has 13 career Road To Indy wins in 82 starts.
It’s Telitz’s 11th start on the 1.786-mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place street circuit. He has three wins, six podiums, and has never finished lower than sixth in Toronto.
For the 20th time in 40 Road To Indy races they have contested together Oliver Askew, and Rinus van Kalmthout (VeeKay) shared a podium. That includes six of the first ten Indy Lights races of the 2019 season.
On Saturday, it was Askew, the 2017 USF2000 champion that bested the 2018 Indy Pro 2000 champion.
The first Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires was given the command to fire their AER 2.0L turbo-charged engines at 12:46 pm. The air was weighty with the humidity at 72%. The ambient temperature was 78F, and the track temperature was a warm 115F.
The front row of Telitz and VeeKay brought the nine hungry drivers to the green flag on Prince’s Boulevard.
Telitz got a good start, getting to the start/finish line ahead of the outside front row starter, who lost another position when Askew got through Turn 1 first after astutely following closely behind Telitz.
The running order at the end of the first lap was: Telitz, Askew, VeeKay, Ryan Norman (Andretti Autosport), Toby Sowery (Team Pelfrey/BN Racing), Dalton Kellett (Juncos Racing), David Malukas (BN Racing), Lucas Kohl (Belardi Auto Racing) and Robert Megennis (Andretti Autosport)
The first third of the race was relatively calm, with first Kellet and then Malukas making mistakes and falling to the tail.
On Lap 10, Telitz lead was 2.515 over Askew. The points leader had his mirrors full of VeeKay, who was well within push-to-pass range and was using them liberally to get by his rival.
Ryan Norman was running fourth with Sowery rounding out the top five.
On Lap 12, VeeKay appeared to brush the wall at the exit of Turn 5 while chasing Askew, dropping 2.5 seconds off his rival.
“Several times,” said VeeKay when asked if he brushed the wall at the exit of Turn 5. “also in Turn 9 on the inside, I hit the wall on the inside. This race, I pushed so incredibly hard, using all of the track.”
At the half-way point of the 35 race, Telitz’s lead was 3.5 seconds over Askew. The Andretti Autosport rookie had 2.7 seconds over VeeKay, who had a comfortable 3+ second gap to Norman.
The closest battle on the track with 15 laps remaining was between Norman and Sowery, who was within push-to-pass range of the Andretti Autosport veteran. Sowery, with 13 activations of push-to-pass, had an advantage over Norman who had seven.
With ten laps left, Telitz lead had grown to 4.1976 seconds and was the only driver turning sub-65 second laps.
Telitz’s lead was 4.4769 seconds with five laps remaining.
With four laps remaining the gap between first and second was down to 3.9584 seconds, with VeeKay was just outside of the 1.5-second push-to-pass activation gap.
VeeKay was able to get back within 1.5 seconds of Askew with 17 turns left in 385 lap race. The Dutchman used up his push to pass to make up a full second over the lap and a half but was not able to get past his chief championship rival.
Askew’s aggressive first lap move means the 2017 USF2000 champion’s title lead grows from three points to six points.
Expect a more assertive Askew for the rest of the season. After the race, the 22-year-old told us:
“My goal is to win races and stretch out the points lead. I think I’ve been a little too conservative the past couple of races and that strategy has now gone out the window. We can be conservative in Laguna if all goes to plan.
“The Index Invest Andretti Autosport car felt good today. Hopefully, we’ll turn up the wick a bit tomorrow in qualifying and get a better starting position and hopefully get another podium or win. We’re looking for our fourth win.”
Cooper Tires Grand Prix Presented by Allied Building Products Race #1 Unofficial Results
|1||4||Aaron Telitz||35||35 LAPS|
|8||67||Dalton Kellett||34||-1 LAPS|
|9||79||David Malukas||34||-1 LAPS|
The top rung of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder is back on track bright and early for an 8:15 am qualifying session on Sunday.