Schmidt Peterson Motorsports didn’t stay away from Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires for long, as the organization announced a driver development program partnership with Belardi Auto Racing on Thursday. Beginning this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park, Santi Urrutia’s No. 5 Arrow Electronics entry will match James Hinchcliffe’s IndyCar entry.
“This new program with Belardi Auto Racing is all about assisting young talented drivers any way we can to get them to the Verizon IndyCar Series,” commented SPM co-owner Sam Schmidt. “Santi did a great job for us in 2016, coming just one point shy of becoming an IndyCar driver this year. Brian Belardi has a great history of doing everything possible with talented drivers, like Gabby Chaves and Zach Veach, so we think this is a great fit. Arrow Electronics and their guests will now have another car to cheer for this season.”
After 2016, Schmidt announced he would not field an Indy Lights car for the first time in 15 years to focus on his IndyCar team and SAM Project. SPM picked up their first win and championship in 2004, backing it up with six more championships in the years to follow. They currently field two full-time IndyCar entries, with Hinchcliffe second in points following his Long Beach victory.
Urrutia raced Indy Lights last season for SPM, placing second in points with 10 top-five finishes. He moved to Belardi Auto Racing for 2017, sitting sixth in the standings following St. Petersburg.
“I’m very excited for this combined effort,” offered Brian Belardi. “I’m looking forward to the partnership with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and having the Arrow Electronics name on our No. 5 car. I believe this new collaboration is a great step forward for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder program. I’m very proud with the fact that our former drivers like Gabby Chaves and Zach Veach will be in this year’s Indianapolis 500, and I know that this new driver development program will help graduate more of the Belardi family into the Verizon IndyCar Series.”
Belardi Auto Racing had a successful 2016 season with six race wins and finish fourth in points with Zach Veach. The Indiana-based team has had success in Indy Lights before, previously winning the championship in 2014. Thus far, Urruitia’s teammates Aaron Telitz and Shelby Blackstock sit second and fourth in points.
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