2018 was shaping up to be an eventful year for Pietro Fittipaldi. The third-generation racer signed with Dale Coyne Racing for seven Verizon IndyCar Series races, among several racing commitments for the season. On May 4, those plans were placed on hold. After crashing during an FIA World Endurance Championship at Spa-Francorchamps, he fractured both legs.
The injury and resulting rehab sidelined Fittipaldi for two months.
Fortunately for the Miami native, his recovery was completed on schedule. He made his return in July at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Despite the obvious pain, he forged ahead and finished the 85-lap race in 23rd. Following the race, Fittipaldi commented on his return at the demanding road course.
“Obviously I feel tired, it’s my first race back and it’s a tough one at Mid-Ohio, it’s really physically demanding here,” noted Fittipaldi.
“We started the race and we didn’t have that much pace at first in our #19 Paysafe car, so we ended up pitting early and then I had to let the leaders go by, so we lost a lot of time there. That said, I finished the race and that was my goal with my leg still hurting a bit, it’s still healing.”
Zachary Claman De Melo took over for Fittipaldi at Indianapolis and Texas. Due to the switch, Fittipaldi will run Pocono and Gateway, as well as his previously scheduled appearances at Portland and Sonoma to close out the season. ‘
This weekend marks perhaps the most interesting challenge for Fittipaldi, Pocono Raceway. The 500-mile race will be his first in an IndyCar and first at a superspeedway. Ahead of Sunday’s race, Fittipaldi discussed the challenges in front of him.
“I had the opportunity to test at Pocono Raceway last week and it went really well,” he exclaimed.
“It was my first full day driving on a super speedway. It’s definitely a different experience compared to a short oval. You’re doing much higher speeds down the straight and it’s a different aero package as well, so it was a new experience for me.”
Despite the obvious learning curve he will face throughout the weekend, Fittipaldi remained upbeat about his first Pocono start.
It was also a fun track to drive on, but I now understand why they call it the ‘Tricky Triangle,” he quipped.
“It’s definitely tricky! Every corner is different, the banking is different, the turning angle. It’s very hard to find the perfect balance. I’ve always loved superspeedway racing so I’m looking forward to the race weekend in my No. 19 Paysafe car.”
Fittipaldi will have a wealth of experience to lean on for this weekend.
His grandfather Emerson made five starts at the 2.5-mile triangle and won the pole for the 1989 race. His uncle Max Papis has made starts in the NASCAR Cup and Truck Series. Papis also serves as an IndyCar Race Steward.
With such a landmark race for Fittipaldi this weekend, it will be worth watching how his recovery has progressed since Mid-Ohio.
Header Image by Chris Jones/INDYCAR