Photo: Chris Owens/INDYCAR

Fittipaldi, Claman De Melo to Split DCR No. 19 in 2018

By Aaron Bearden, Contributing Writer

The No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing (DCR) entry is “TBA” no more.

The organization announced Wednesday that young stars Zachary Claman De Melo and Pietro Fittipaldi will share the the No. 19 Honda throughout the entire 17-race Verizon IndyCar Series slate, running with sponsorship support from Paysafe.

“We are very pleased to have a leading global payments provider like Paysafe come on board to the exciting sport of Indy car racing as part of their North American expansion strategy,” DCR Owner Dale Coyne said in a team release.  “With Zach and Pietro’s ever-growing skills, we look forward to a competitive 2018 season for Paysafe.”

The announcement serves as a continuation between Paysafe and De Melo after the Canadian’s IndyCar debut in the 2017 season finale at Sonoma Raceway with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

De Melo, 19, previously competed on the Mazda Road to Indy, running the entirety of the previous two Indy Lights seasons in 2016 and ’17. The young prospect tallied four podiums in 34 starts, with a lone victory at Road America in 2017.

“Paysafe helped me attain a life ambition last September when I made my Verizon IndyCar Series debut in Sonoma,” De Melo said. “I am hugely grateful for their ongoing support as I prepare for the forthcoming races; I feel proud to be representing their brand again on the race track and I shall be doing all I can to get the Paysafe car into victory lane.”

Fittipaldi, 21, is the grandson of Emerson Fittipaldi – a legend of open wheel racing with two Indianapolis 500 wins, a 1989 Indy car championship and two Formula One championships to his name. The Brazilian competed in the World Series 3.5 V8 Championship in 2017, putting together a strong season with six victories and a record 10 poles en-route to the series title.

“This is a dream come true, even more so to be racing in the Indy 500, where my family already has a history of great results,” Fittipaldi said. “I want to thank the entire team at Dale Coyne Racing, along with my long-time sponsors, Escuderia Telmex and Paysafe for this massive opportunity and important step in my career.

“I’m very excited and proud to be racing on a world stage like the Verizon IndyCar Series this year.”

Fittipaldi will participate in an upcoming test a ISM Raceway on Feb. 8-10, where he’ll complete the Rookie Orientation Program. Both Fittipaldi and De Melo have tested for the team in recent sessions at Sebring Raceway and Sonoma.

De Melo and Fittipaldi will be teamed with Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 18 Honda, whose return to the team in a partnership with Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan was confirmed earlier this week.

The full schedule for the two drivers has yet to be revealed, the initial season-opening slate was announced. De Melo will participate in the season opener at St. Petersburg, as well as the events at Barber Motorsports Park and Long Beach.

Fittipaldi will make his debut at Phoenix on April 7, before returning to contest the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 in May.

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Aaron Bearden is a Contributing Writer for Motorsports Tribune, handling coverage of both the Verizon IndyCar Series and ABB FIA Formula E Championship. A native Hoosier, Bearden has attended races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since he was three years old. He can be found on social media at @AaronBearden93.