Zachary Claman de Melo announced as Fittipaldi replacement for Coyne in Indy 500

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Zachary Claman de Melo

Dale Coyne Racing has announced their replacement for the injured rookie Pietro Fittipaldi and his Indianapolis 500 seat, assigning fellow rookie Zachary Claman de Melo to drive the No. 19 Honda for the May 27 race.

In four starts this year for DCR, Claman de Melo has an averaging starting position of 19.5 while he has an average finishing position of 17.8.  In Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, Claman de Melo recorded his career best IndyCar finish of 12th.

“I’m very much looking forward to turning my first laps aboard the #19 Paysafe Indy car on the oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” said Claman De Melo. “It’s an iconic venue and I’m extremely fortunate to be able to have the opportunity to drive here. Again, it’s unfortunate that it’s under these circumstances with Pietro’s injuries so I realize how lucky I am to have this chance.

“I want to thank Dale (Coyne) and Paysafe for giving me this opportunity. I can’t wait to get on track to complete my rookie orientation program.”

Claman de Melo will have to pass the Rookie Orientation Program today (1:00 to 3:00 p.m.) before he is granted freedom to practice for the rest of the month.

Fittipaldi, 21, had made one start thus far in his maiden Verizon IndyCar Series season by qualifying 10th at ISM Raceway in Phoenix before crashing out of the race on lap 40.  On May 4, the Brazilian driver was practicing for the 6 Hours of Spa when his DragonSpeed LMP1 machine left the racing surface at the famous Eau Rouge curve.

A failure of the car’s hydraulics system sent the young Fittipaldi into a barrier at approximately 155 miles per hour.  In the crash, Fittipaldi fractured both legs with the FIA announcing the left leg suffered a “complex fracture,” while the break in the right leg was very low – just above the ankle.

Scheduled to drive both races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May, Fittipaldi’s injury left Dale Coyne Racing scrambling to fill his place for two different disciplines of racing at IMS.  For the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the 14-turn road course the Honda-powered team settled on fellow rookie Zachary Claman de Melo, the other half of the No. 19 machine for which Fittipaldi shares.

The injury to Fittipaldi is one year removed from fellow Dale Coyne Racing driver Sebastien Bourdais’ gruesome accident last May which fractured his pelvis and put Coyne in a similar predicament.  In that instance, James Davison was tabbed to fill in for the Indianapolis 500 in the No. 18 Honda.

For this year’s race, Davison is already accounted for as he will team up with A.J. Foyt Racing, Jonathan Byrd Racing, Belardi Auto Group and Hollinger MotorSport driving the No. 33 Chevrolet.

The 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 will go green on Sunday, May 27 at 12:20 p.m.  The race will be shown live on ABC.

Images courtesy of INDYCAR Media.

Tanner Watkins

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