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July 18, 2013
Indianapolis, IN - The Mazda Road to Indy series traveled to Toronto with the IZOD IndyCar Series this past weekend. After a month off since "The Night Before the 500" the USF2000 drivers were ready to get back in the cars and on track. Belardi Auto Racing brought home a podium at the last race and the team was determined to keep the momentum going and sure enough they brought home just the results they wanted.
By Practice 2, three of the five Belardi Auto Racing drivers Danilo Estrela, recently signed Michael Epps, and Peter Portante all were running in the top 10. Results for qualifying were looking promising for the five-car line up until Portante wrecked and put the crew to work to get it back together in time for the session. The team worked diligently to get all five cars ready and they completed the task at hand when it was time to roll out to grid, but another issue arose once the session began. Estrela, who had been the quickest on track of Practice 2 , had a mechanical issue and could not get the No. 11 to start. The crew worked quickly to fix it in order to put some laps in before the 30-minute session ended. They fixed the car and Estrela put in a few solid laps before making contact with the wall. Belardi's five cars would start Round 6 spread out across the grid with Michael Epps in 9th, Danilo Estrela in 11th, Peter Portante in 14th, Daniel Burkett in 16th, and Matt McMurry in 19th.
When the green flag dropped, the entire 30-car field was on the move, weaving down the wide front stretch before quickly filing to get through Turn 1. It was a great race for the Belardi drivers who, as a team, advanced 26 positions. Estrela made his way from 11th to 3rd to give Belardi another podium this season. Teammates, Epps and Burkett, also finished in the top 10 in sixth and 10th respectively. Daniel Burkett was just behind in 11th and McMurry finished the line-up in 13th, equaling his best finish so far this season. The team was happy with a podium but they continued to work until they knew they were able to compete for a win.
The young drivers were eager to get back on track for Round 7 on Sunday. Unfortunately, McMurry was caught up with contact and his race was cut short after an impressive run in Round 6. Shortly after, Burkett would make a pit stop but make his way back through the field to finish in 11th. Estrela, Portante, and Epps were very competitive in the front of the field for majority of the event and with three restarts, they were able to stay close to the leader to keep looking for an open window to pass. Estrela tried both the inside and outside each time before finally making the pass on Alberico with close to five laps to go. As Estrela got around, Portante took advantage of the opportunity and followed his teammate as they went P1 and 2 around the street course. As Estrela created a gap, Portante tried to hold off Hargrove who was on the move. When Hargrove made the pass for second, Portante lost momentum and fell back to fourth but Estrela was already comfortably in the first position ready to take the checkered flag for the first time this season.
"The race was really good," said Estrela, the 19-year-old Brazilian, "Cape (Motorsports) raced really hard. I tried a move on Alberico but it didn't work out well on the start and I fell back to the fourth position. I overtook the two positions in Turn 3 and got back to second behind Alberico. The yellow flag came out so I tried a move on the restart, but it didn't work out. On the next yellow, I tried to make the move to the outside and unfortunately I lost some grip on the track and Hargrove overtook me. So I learned how to play on the restarts. I did the best restart I could, overtook Hargrove on the outside of (Turn) one, and then just went down the straight and I tried to brake as late as I could to make the move on Alberico. When I got around him I put my head down, didn't look in the mirror again and just tried to make a huge gap."
After a long, exciting weekend for Belardi Auto Racing who brought home a win and podium in USF2000 as well as a second-place podium from Peter Dempsey in Indy Lights, the team will regroup with a couple weeks off before traveling to Mid-Ohio with the IndyCar series. This momentum building weekend will hopefully continue at Mid-Ohio and put Belardi Auto Racing closer to the top of the Championship Standings.
Category: Team News
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