The streets around Exhibition Place have long been a happy hunting ground for Aaron Telitz. After finishing on the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires podium in each of the last two years and sweeping a pair of Indy Pro 2000 race wins en route to the championship title in 2016, the Wisconsin native led from flag to flag for Belardi Auto Racing in today’s Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Toronto Presented by Allied Building Products.
The victory was Telitz’s first since the final round of his rookie season in 2017.
Championship leader Oliver Askew finished second for Andretti Autosport with his closest championship rival, Dutchman Rinus VeeKay, taking third for Juncos Racing.
Telitz, who is competing on a race-by-race basis for Belardi Racing, upstaged the series regulars by qualifying on the pole this morning. He then took full advantage by accelerating immediately into the lead. Behind, VeeKay, who qualified second, was jumped by third-place qualifier Askew on the run toward Turn One.
Telitz put his head down and extended his lead over Askew to more than two seconds inside the first three laps. Already out of push-to-pass range (1.5 seconds), Telitz traded fastest laps with Askew and then VeeKay in the opening stages of the 35-lap race as he extended his advantage to as much as five seconds before easing off and taking the checkered flag 2.9776 seconds clear o. In doing so he became the sixth different winner this season.
“Having Belardi call me back to run with them again, that they had the confidence in me to get the job done, this just feels awesome,” said Telitz. It is such a relief, after not winning at all last year. I hate how the crash at the beginning of the season defined my year (in 2018) — it knocked all the wind out of our sails. But this year is completely different. I had even more confidence coming into this weekend than I did at Road America. Hopping into the car against guys who have been here all year, I thought I’d get my butt kicked, so getting the podium there really gave us confidence.
“As well as I know this track I felt as though I had a leg up here, Telitz added. “I got a good start and, after the first lap, I had to just stay out of push-to-pass range. It was about not making mistakes and bringing it home.
“And a funny note: being from Northern Wisconsin, I actually drove south to get here … ”
Meanwhile, the second-place finish for Askew enabled him to double his lead over VeeKay to a still-narrow six with 10 of 18 races now in the books.
Ryan Norman (Andretti Autosport) couldn’t match the top trio and instead had his mirrors filled for most of the race by the distinctive yellow BN Racing/Team Pelfrey Dallara-AER of Englishman Toby Sowery. Only midway around the final lap did Norman have any real breathing room, when the engine in Sowery’s car abruptly cut after he had locked up under braking for Turn Three. Fortunately, Sowery was able to recycle the electronics and bring the car home in fifth, narrowly ahead of Robert Megennis (Andretti Autosport), who earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award after starting from ninth on the grid, heavily damaging his car’s suspension during qualifying when he clipped one of the omnipresent walls.