Aaron Telitz enters this weekend’s Indy Lights event at Road America on a mission to write a happier ending to a frustrating sophomore season.
With a win to open the 2017 season and another at the final round, Telitz was a favorite to vie for the Lights title in 2018, but a chassis-destroying crash to open the year in St. Petersburg almost broke the Wisconsin native’s budget to complete the season with Belardi Racing. And with more misfortune in the ensuing races, the home state favorite sits last among the full-time drivers in the standings.
Winning the Indy Lights championship will require a running series of miracles to happen for Telitz over the final 10 races, and with that uncertainty to face, the 2016 Pro Mazda title winner says there’s no reason to play it safe.
“It’s been a tougher year than I could have anticipated, but to be totally honest, I feel like I’ve been driving way better than I did last year,” Telitz told RACER. “I paid off my crashed car from St. Pete, but that budget pretty much came out of the funds that I had to run the rest of the year. I’m not necessarily out of the woods budget wise yet, but I can’t let that discourage me.
“I was faster at St. Pete; I was quick at Barber, had no luck at Barber. I was fast at the Indy GP and got a third and a second place out of it, which I felt like, if I had a minor bit of luck, should’ve been a second and first place. Then at the Freedom 100, I didn’t have sixth gear for the whole race, so I fell back and couldn’t stay with the pack. But I know that if we have clean races, we can get wins and get our momentum back.”
Having completed a successful test for the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports IndyCar team earlier in the year, Telitz is hoping to find a seat in the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2019. Cutting his Indy Lights season short, with the long championship odds in mind, would save some dollars to put towards IndyCar, but the 26-year-old says quitting in the face of adversity would send the wrong message to potential employers.
“It would’ve been so much easier after I crashed to pack it up; that would’ve been the easy way out,” he added. “You’d be a lot less stressed — you’d just be hanging out at the racetracks, but to be honest with you, that wasn’t an option for me. There’s no way that I could let that happen. I would be in more pain watching racing happen sitting on the sidelines than fighting for it, going in debt for it, doing whatever it takes to be on the track. It means too much to me and I hope that people understand that — that I’m doing this because this is all I want to do, and this is everything I’ve got. There’s no backup plan for me, and I’m just hoping people do see that.”
And with the IndyCar silly season gaining momentum earlier than usual, Telitz is spending his free time outside the No. 9 Belardi Racing Dallara IL15-Mazda Indy Lights machine searching for the funding and opportunities to graduate to the big league.
“Obviously, it’s important to look ahead constantly,” he said. “We’re always looking at what the future’s going to hold, and we’re already planning on IndyCar, trying to get things working toward that happening for me.”