By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
INDIANAPOLIS – Zachary Claman De Melo has been officially announced as the replacement for the injured Pietro Fittipaldi at Dale Coyne Racing for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
After making his Verizon IndyCar Series debut at ISM Raceway (formerly Phoenix International Raceway) last month, Fittipaldi was originally slated to make his first run at the Brickyard. However, he was injured after a heavy crash during FIA World Endurance Championship qualifying for the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in Belguim on May 5.
As rookies, both Claman De Melo and Fittipaldi were already splitting the No. 19 Honda entry, with the latter primarily focused on road and street courses and the former pulling a mixed bag of tracks which included ovals.
In four starts this season, Claman De Melo has a best finish of 12th, which came last weekend in the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. The 20-year-old Canadian does have two races under his belt on the 2.5-mile oval in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, with a best finish of sixth last season.
“I’m very much looking forward to turning my first laps aboard the No. 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, team owner) and Paysafe for giving me this opportunity. I can’t wait to get on track to complete my rookie orientation program.”
There will be no time like the present for Claman De Melo as rookie orientation is set with a two hour session starting at 1 p.m. ET today as official practice for the Indy 500 gets underway.