The concept quality over quantity is a pretty good summary when looking at the 2019 season for Aaron Telitz.
Since 2014, the Wisconsin native has grinded away and become a prominent fixture in the Road to Indy program, a three-tier development ladder system sanctioned by INDYCAR. While the battle to break into the NTT IndyCar Series has been almost like an unattainable dream, it’s not for lack of talent.
Collectively, Telitz has 10 wins, 40 podiums and 13 poles in 82 starts throughout the Road to Indy, which includes a championship in the second rung – Indy Pro 2000 presented by Cooper Tires – in 2016 after beating out then-Team Pelfrey teammate Patricio O’Ward.
The 27-year-old decided to change up his path and began this year racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, driving in the GT Daytona category for selected endurance events with AIM Vasser Sullivan. That venture isn’t by coincidence as the team also has a stake in Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan in the NTT IndyCar Series.
In turn, all Telitz did was help lead the team to a runner-up result in class for both his and the team’s debut at the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Additionally, he was lured back into a substitute role at Belardi Auto Racing to compete in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires – the top step of RTI – and drove to a third-place result in the opening race of the doubleheader event at Road America two weeks ago.
Team co-owner Jimmy Vasser has already seen enough to understand the adaptability and talent Telitz possesses.
“He brings all the things you would like to see a young driver,” Vasser said. “He's quick, he's personable, he's even-keeled, and has got a lot of talent. It was good to see him just jump in straight off the couch (on a given) weekend and run competitively. I thought that was pretty impressive.”
The early part of 2018 saw Telitz enjoy a positive Indy car test with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Although nothing materialized afterwards, Vasser is doing all he can to provide him another opportunity.
“We would like to, but we don't have anything concrete right now as far as test days,” Vasser admitted.
“We've talked about it since we brought him in last year for the Lexus program in the endurance championship. … We recognize the current crop of young Indy Lights drivers, there's a handful of them, and what you see what Colton (Herta) and Patricio are doing this year, while the field is not deep, it's very competitive.
“The guys that are coming out right now are kind of our next crop of guys. We like Aaron a lot and we think he's got a future, but having said that, there's nothing concrete right now.”
In the meantime, Telitz is doing all he can outside of the cockpit by being on the team’s timing stand for every session.
“I’m really (learning) a lot about the strategy,” Telitz said. “It’s something big that is missing in Indy Lights. Yeah, we have to manage our tires. Sure, you've got to manage your push to pass. But they've got to manage fuel strategy, their tires, pace, pit stops, traffic, all sorts of extra stuff. You learn that they have a whole strategy meeting.
“These guys sit on strategy meetings probably before IndyCar races, too. There's a whole strategy meeting that happens and then the strategy goes out the window after the first green flag, yellow flag or whatever it is. And then they've just got to change it from there. That's what's been interesting to watch this year.”
The learning curve hasn’t been terrible for Telitz, who confessed that endurance racing has forced him to handle any situation and “be ready to drive whatever I get in” despite being behind the wheel less than year’s past.
“It's been tricky, but it hasn't felt as weird as I thought it would feel because I still have been in the mix with people that are in positions to give me good race car rides,” Telitz said.
“I'm still working towards my goal of being in IndyCar, in the Indianapolis 500 - that's still the goal. I feel like I didn't take a step back this year by doing the IMSA stuff. It's a different series, but I'm adding to my resume driving for a team owner that owns an Indy car. It all feels like it's moving in the right direction.
“Obviously, Brian (Belardi) giving me an opportunity to come back into Indy Lights when a driver left his team this year just keeps me fresh. I love racing Indy Lights. I love driving for Brian.
“Open wheel is where my heart's at.”
Telitz, Indy Lights and the NTT IndyCar Series will be back in action July 12-14 at the Honda Indy Toronto at Exhibition Place.