TORONTO, Ont., Canada – 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, from Jupiter, Fla., finished second for Andretti Autosport with his closest championship rival, Dutchman Rinus VeeKay, taking third for Juncos Racing.
Telitz, from Birchwood, Wis., who is competing on a race-by-race basis, upstaged the series regulars by qualifying on pole position 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 his pace and taking the checkered flag 2.9776 seconds clear of Askew. In doing so he became the sixth different winner this season.
Second place for Askew enabled him to double his lead over VeeKay to a still meager six points with 10 of 18 races now in the books.
Ryan Norman (Andretti Autosport), from Aurora, Ohio, 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), from New York, N.Y., who earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award after starting from ninth on the grid having damaged his car’s suspension during qualifying when he clipped one of the omnipresent walls.
Aaron Telitz (#4 Outlaw Energy/Motiv8 Sports Group/Slick Locks-Belardi Auto Racing Dallara-AER IL-15): “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. 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), but 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. 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…”
Oliver Askew (#28 Index Invest Dallara-Andretti Autosport Dallara-AER IL-15): “It’s so hard to pass here so unless I made a mistake there was no way (for VeeKay) to get by. We struggled a bit toward the end, so hopefully we’ll be better tomorrow. This is the second half of the season, so it’s time to turn up the wick. It’s a sprint to the finish and there aren’t many races left. It feels as though it’s been too long since I won a race, that I’ve been too conservative since the Freedom 100. That strategy isn’t working, so we’re here to win every race and build up the points lead.”
Rinus VeeKay (#21 Mazda/Jumbo Supermarkets/La Place Restaurants/KNAF Talent First-Juncos Racing Dallara-AER IL-15): “I don’t regret using the push-to-pass early because I needed it to stay with them, because we were losing a bit of pace on high fuel load. Once it started to burn, I got quicker and quicker. I was super quick late; I would have liked one more lap! This is a great track, it’s very physical which I like because I’m training twice a day. I could see that there was more in me at the end of the race. There’s a lot of sensation with the bumps. But I enjoy coming here – many Dutch people live in Canada and so many people were cheering for me. That’s fun to see.”