Canadian driver excited to run in home country in front of supportive fans
TORONTO, ONT. – The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda will make its only trip north of the border this coming weekend, and the Belardi Auto Racing operation will arrive with two tractor trailers to attack the Toronto Indy, running in the Indy Lights series as well. Belardi will have a pair of USF2000 drivers in the paddock, and for one, it will be a big home nation race in which to aim for a career-best finish. Winnipeg, Manitoba’s Daniel Burkett may still be over 1200 miles from his hometown, but the event in Toronto represents his home race and he will be focused on putting the Canadian flag on the podium in both of the weekend’s main events. Dutch pilot Jeroen Slaghekke will join Burkett, coming off a strong fourth-place finish at the Night Before The 500 at Lucas Oil Raceway in May.
Burkett’s development and improvements have continued in his second year in the series, and he currently sits eighth in the championship standings. A pair of top-five finishes at Barber Motorsports Park in late April stand as his best results, but he has shown great consistency since being involved in an race-ending incident in the back-end of the doubleheader at the St. Petersburg series opener. Last year, Daniel finished tenth and 11th in the two feature races on the streets of Toronto, but he will be aiming for much more this time around.
"Toronto is going to be an awesome event for me,” Burkett confirmed, excited about the venue and another opportunity to grab that first podium finish. “The fans love their Canadian boys and I always get a lot of support and attention. I feel like I've progressed so much since my rookie season last year and I should be at the pointy end of the field for this year’s race."
Slaghekke comes into Toronto with momentum thanks to his strong result on the oval in May, and since joining Belardi Auto Racing for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis earlier in the month, he and the team have been working hard to develop a dialogue and a game plan. Jeroen was quick on the Toronto lakeshore street circuit last year, running in the top-10 in both practice and qualifying, but got caught up in race-ending incidents in both events. This time around, he has a year of experience under his belt and will be better prepared to avoid the incidents that often come to characterize temporary circuit racing.
“I had decent speed in Toronto last year, but I feel I could've done a lot better,” admitted Slaghekke, who is primed to step to the next level. “I’m looking forward to getting a lot of points and fighting for the win this time around. Recent races and the collective testing have been very promising as I'm starting to gel more and more with the team. Toronto is a track that suits my style with hard braking zones and technical sections, and I believe we can get some great results there.”
Live audio play-by-play of the Toronto Indy will be available on www.usf2000.com/results/live-timing so that Belardi Auto Racing support can tune into all the action. The Belardi team drivers will be on-track on Friday, July 18 for practice sessions at 8:30 am and 1:15 pm ahead of a late afternoon qualifying session at 5:50 pm. The opening race of the doubleheader will take place at 6:15 pm on Saturday, July 19 while the second race is set for 9:05 am on Sunday, July 20.