De Melo to race in Grand Prix of Indianapolis in place of injured Fittipaldi

by Jordan Groves

Dale Coyne Racing Verizon IndyCar Series driver Zachary Claman De Melo has announced today that he will be racing in this weekend’s 2018 Grand Prix of Indianapolis. The part-time driver will fill in for the injured Pietro Fittipaldi, who was originally scheduled to drive the #19 PaySafe car in the race.

It was expected that De Melo would get the nod for this weekend, given that he is already signed up to race in a majority of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series, sharing the #19 car with Fittipaldi throughout the year.

Fittipaldi had been due to race in this weekend’s Grand Prix on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as well as the 2018 Indianapolis 500 at the end of the month. However, the Brazilian rookie was injured in a crash during qualifying for the World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. His DragonSpeed LMP1 car crashed head-on into the barriers at Eau Rouge, with the contact fracturing his left leg and breaking his right ankle.

Fittipaldi is estimated to be returning to the cockpit for the race at Mid-Ohio in July. As announced today, Claman De Melo will fill in for the first of the race’s that Fittipaldi had been signed up for.

“I’m extremely excited to get to race at the INDYCAR Grand Prix this weekend aboard the #19 Paysafe car, but I’m sad that it’s under these circumstances. My thoughts are first and foremost with Pietro [Fittipaldi], you never want to see that happen to a competitor, much less a teammate,” said De Melo in a team release from Dale Coyne Racing,

“Getting to race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is always special. I enjoyed racing there in Indy Lights and I can’t wait to now get a chance to drive there aboard an IndyCar. It’s a fun track with some good passing opportunities which means it should be a good show for the fans. Hopefully, we can turn our luck around and come out of the weekend with a good result.”

Dale Coyne Racing has yet to announce who will fill in for Fittipaldi in the Indianapolis 500 on May 27. The first official practice session for the event takes place on Monday, May 14. This would be the first opportunity for the replacement driver to complete his/her veteran refresher or rookie orientation test.

An announcement regarding the identity of the substitute for the 500 is expected any day now, with Dale Coyne saying last weekend that he ideally wanted a replacement signed up by the end of this current week.

Practice and Qualifying for this Saturday’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis will take place tomorrow, May 11.

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