Meet the Contenders: Aaron Telitz
 August 10, 2016| 
  • Series News

Aaron Telitz leads the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires title chase as the series heads to its tripleheader season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on September 9-11.

PALMETTO, Fla. – Aaron Telitz knows pressure. From securing a Mazda scholarship that enabled him to join the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires to entering his home race 55 points back in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and emerging with a pair of victories, the 24-year-old has managed his share of pressure-packed racing weekends. He will enter one more this season, as Telitz heads to one of his favorite tracks – Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca – leading the title chase. To the champion goes one of the most sought-after prizes in open-wheel racing: a Mazda scholarship to assist in the graduation to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires in 2017.

Telitz grew up on a Northern Wisconsin fishing resort managed by his family (his claim to fame from those early years is the ability to filet a bluegill in 25 seconds). He followed his older brother into karting at the age of 6 and became a nationally-ranked driver, winning numerous state and national championships. He moved into cars in 2012 after winning a Mazda scholarship at the Skip Barber Karting Scholarship Shootout, then showed himself well in the Skip Barber Championship and the F1600 Championship Series and earned a Team USA Scholarship nod to race in England in 2014 (detailed further in his "My Mazda Road to Indy Feature" last season).

Telitz won the 2013 Skip Barber Championship Shootout and the $200,000 scholarship into the 2014 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, the first rung of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder. He finished third in the title chase last season.

Telitz signed on with Palmetto, Florida’s Team Pelfrey, as teammate to 17-year-old Mexican phenom Patricio “Pato” O’Ward this year aboard the #82 Rice Lake Weighing Systems entry. O’Ward went on a tear to start the season, winning six of the first seven races. But Telitz kept the championship close, with a victory and four second place finishes in that span – and never doubted his ability to stage a comeback. 

“I never got down when Pato was winning a bunch of races,” said Telitz, “because we weren’t even halfway through the season at that point. I thought that anything Pato had done in the first half of the season, I could do in the second half. I think it helps that I’m a little bit older, because I’m not intimidated that some of the other drivers have more experience in the car than I do – and I knew I would be quick at my home track of Road America to start the second half of the season.”

Telitz headed to Road America with the pressure of family, friends and media coming out to watch one of the few Wisconsinites competing in the Verizon IndyCar Series weekend. He served notice that the championship was far from over by not only sweeping that weekend but the Toronto event that followed as well, taking both pole positions and both victories in both weekends. With second-place finishes in two races at Mid-Ohio – on each occasion, crucially ahead of title rival O’Ward – Telitz enters the Soul Red Finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with a 14-point lead in the championship.

For Telitz, the finale could not come at a better venue. 

“My car racing career really started at Mazda Raceway. That’s where I won my first Mazda scholarship to start competing in Skip Barber cars. It was my jumping-off point. I’ve been fast every time I’ve been there, whether it was in Skip Barber cars or last year in USF2000 (note: Telitz finished 4th and 2nd in two races at MRLS last year). I’ve always been quick at Mazda Raceway. I’m psyched to be leading the championship going into the final round – I’ve never been in this position in my Mazda Road to Indy career.”

As a former Mazda scholarship driver, Telitz knows what’s at stake: the privilege to compete in the Soul Red colors in the Indy Lights series, only one step away from his goal of a career in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“Winning the Mazda scholarship to enter the USF2000 series is the biggest achievement of my racing career so far, and it’s what allowed me to get on the Mazda Road to Indy. I’m in the same position this year; winning the title would mean I would be able to move into Indy Lights. It’s a huge jump and it would become possible with Mazda’s scholarship. I have a huge weight on my shoulders but that’s how I felt the year I won my previous scholarship so I’ll hope to repeat the same thing.”

With one of the more colorful personalities in the MRTI paddock, Telitz readily admits that, away from the track, his pursuits are somewhat unique. During the summer, he works as a caddie at the Minikahda Club in Minneapolis, helps out at his family’s resort and, when he has time, enjoys spending his leisure hours with activities that are pretty much the opposite of racing.

“I like puzzling and I like knitting – so I’m kind of like a grandma already.It’s an awesome, sort of mindless way to unwind. When you’re away from the track and you’re stressing about the team, sponsors and getting ready for the next race, a good way to take your mind off those shenanigans that drivers have to do is knitting or puzzling. I’m not a very fast knitter, but I like making scarves – and my girlfriend and I are working on a 4,000-piece jigsaw puzzle that my cousin got me for Christmas. That’s how long we’ve been working on it.”

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