By Aaron Bearden, Contributing Writer
Zachary Claman de Melo isn’t sure if he’ll be in the No. 19 Honda for the Indianapolis 500.
But the rookie made his case for a Month of May drive with his best Verizon IndyCar Series performance to date on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Claman de Melo avoided any on-track incidents and put together a consistent drive to earn a career-best 12th-place finish in Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix.
“I’m really happy with the result,” he told Motorsports Tribune. “We probably could have been in the top 10 easily, if we hadn’t had that issue that cost us like 10 seconds for our first pit stop. We’re not quite sure what it was, so we’re looking into it.
“But overall I’m happy with the run. It’s good for me, and I’m happy for the team.”
Claman de Melo found himself in the ride amid unfortunate circumstances.
Pietro Fittipaldi – the driver Claman de Melo shares the No. 19 Honda with, and the one initially expected to compete in the Month of May – was forced to sit out of the two races after breaking both legs in a qualifying crash for the May 5 FIA World Endurance Championship race at Circuit Spa Francorchamps.
With one of their drivers for Indianapolis hurt, Dale Coyne Racing found themselves scrambling to find a replacement for the second-straight season. They named Claman de Melo the driver for the IMS road course on Thursday, while they’ve yet to name their entrant for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.
The 20-year-old Claman de Melo expected to have the month off. But a new training regiment kept him in shape for the unanticipated drive.
“I thought I had some time off, so I was in the gym every day,” he said. “To be honest it was probably the hardest I’ve ever trained. I found a new gym I liked, and I was there every single day pushing myself as hard as I could.”
With his shape not in doubt, Claman de Melo pieced together his best IndyCar run to date at a track he never expected to see.
The rookie hopes it’s enough to secure him the ride for the Indianapolis 500.
“I hope to be in the car on the oval next week,” Claman de Melo said. “But obviously I don’t know anything. Hopefully we’ll find out something soon, but either way I’m really happy with the result.”