Championship-winning Indy Lights team owner Brian Belardi has a plan to bring Belardi Auto Racing into the NTT IndyCar Series. The Indiana-based program, which fields three Lights cars this season and won the first race at St. Petersburg with Zachary Claman De Melo, isn’t in a rush to get to IndyCar as a full-time entrant.
Continuing his association with the Byrd family and Brad Hollinger, Belardi is back as a co-entrant with James Davison’s Indy 500 program that will be run by Dale Coyne Racing. As many other IndyCar entrants have done, building upon the co-entry platform is the best way forward for Belardi.
“IndyCar is definitely in our future at some point,” he told RACER. “Last year, I got my feet wet, and this year I’m just trying to build on the experience that I had last year as far as knowledge and everything that goes along with IndyCar. But I could see co-entries being the major force for the next couple of years.”
With IndyCar looking to introduce a new chassis in 2022, Belardi says it’s smarter to hold off on making major purchases until after the current Dallara DW12 chassis is retired.
“When the new chassis does come out, I think that would be the smart time to actually do it,” he said. “I really don’t have a timeline put on when we’d go; it’s going to be more based on relationships, B to B, those types of deals. And I think I made some significant progress, actually, in COTA, which will be a part of the Indy 500 effort this year. So I’m hoping to get that wrapped up here pretty quick, because without that, it’s going to be difficult. It will honestly be difficult for me to do the 500 this year. But I think it’s looking very good right now.”
Belardi is looking to add an IndyCar program to his future plans, rather than move his Indy Lights team up to the big series and leave a void behind on the Road To Indy.
“I really enjoy Indy Lights, and with our drivers, the team’s goal is to get them to IndyCar,” he said. “That’s our business model right now. Gabby Chaves has been there, Zach Veach is in there right now, Felix Rosenqvist is turning out to be a star. It’s nice to see things like that progress. I never promise a driver that, ‘Hey, if we win the championship, we’re going to go IndyCar racing with my team.’
“I guess the analogy would be for me is I look at it more of as a AAA baseball team, if you will, or a college football program trying to get the players to the NFL or major league baseball. So that’s the approach that I take. I really just want to focus on what we’re doing as far as a team to try and win championships, and to get these drivers to the next level. So taking our team out of Lights isn’t what we’re going for.”