In any other sport, playing home games is the norm. In racing, it’s more of an exception rather than a given.
That is part of what makes this weekend’s Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires doubleheader at Road America so unique for Wisconsin native Aaron Telitz.
The 26-year-old has logged “a pile of laps” around the 4.014-mile, 14-turn permanent road course in various cars. One of his longtime supporters on the No. 5 Belardi Auto Racing Mazda / Dallara IL-15 is Rice Lake Weighing Systems, which hails from the same town – Rice Lake – where Telitz grew up in northwest Wisconsin.
“Racing is a sport where you’re home track is only an advantage one time a year (if any), so you don’t get multiple home games, multiple home races,” Telitz said.
“So you always want to make it worth it. There’s always a better energy there. You’ve got more of your own fans and family that comes out, all your friends that can’t make it to all the races can come down and see you. You’re staying in a familiar place, somewhere that you know and like, and it just makes the whole weekend more fun, honestly.”
Telitz is also no stranger to victories in front of the home crowd as he swept both races during his 2016 title run in the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires – the second rung of the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder.
His rookie season last year in Indy Lights, the top step of the ladder, saw Telitz collect two wins and four podiums en route to sixth in the championship. Lady Luck has dealt him a cruel fate thus far in 2018, though the tide started to turn last month when he scored two podiums at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Despite the being seventh in the championship standings after seven of 17 races, Telitz remains confident.
“I think I’ve made a huge improvement in my own performance this year,” Telitz said. “I’ve been a lot faster at every racetrack than I was last year. We just haven’t quite had the luck or had things fall our way. As you know, the crash at St. Pete, not having sixth gear at Indy (in the Freedom 100), at Barber there was some bad luck there.
“It’s been a year of just trying to keep your head up and keep going. Being quick everywhere hasn’t necessarily led to better results this year, but I just stay positive and keep going. I’ve come too far to give up or to lose sight of everything. I just keep going no matter what.”
That mentality should prove favorable this weekend as he also confessed to his favorite section of “America’s National Park of Speed.”
“The coolest part of the whole track, honestly, is when you come around the carousel (Turns 9 and 10), head down and blast through the kink (Turn 11),” Telitz said. “Then it feels like you’re just kind of, for me, going as fast as you can down a winding country road flat out up in northern Wisconsin. The trees are on either side of you and it doesn’t feel like you’re necessarily at a racetrack anymore. I think that’s the coolest part.”
Telitz also believes turning around his season with a pair of wins this weekend couldn’t come at a better place.
“That would make my year feel a lot better,” he said. “Indy is obviously our biggest race in Indy Lights, but for me personally, Road America is my biggest race of the year. It has been for the last three years that we’ve raced there.
“It’s an important race to me, really special to get out on a track where I first drove a race car and always want to put on a show for my home fans.”
The Indy Lights schedule calls for a practice session (10:15 a.m. ET) and qualifying for Race 1 (5:55 p.m.) on Friday. Qualifying for the second race starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, with Race 1 beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday. Race 2 is set to begin at 10:50 a.m. Sunday. All sessions will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.