Photo: Chris Jones/INDYCAR

Fittipaldi Confident After Qualifying Tenth in INDYCAR debut at ISM Raceway

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

Dale Coyne Racing will enter Saturday’s Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix at ISM Raceway in Avondale, Arizona with two cars in the top-10.

Leading the field to the green flag will be Firestone St. Petersburg Grand Prix winner Sebastien Bourdais, claiming his first oval pole since The Milwaukee Mile in 2006.

While the talk in the paddock is about the senior driver, Bourdais’ part-time teammate also made some noise after qualifying 10th.

Pietro Fittipaldi, who’s making his Verizon INDYCAR Series debut, set a combined time of 39.8275 seconds, averaging 184.548 mph in the No. 19 Paysafe Honda.

The 21-year-old Brazilian’s pace was solid enough to be the second fastest rookie, out qualifying Andretti Autosport’s Zach Veach and reigning Indy Lights champion Kyle Kaiser, who’s making his first start of the season in the “Valley of the Sun.”

“The car felt really good,” said Fittipaldi. “Engineers did a great job to give me a good car for qualifying.”

Fittipaldi said his car handling had its contrast because of Friday’s warmer track conditions than it was when he logged laps during pre-season testing in February.

“Practice was a lot different than we were testing in February,” he added. “The track is a lot hotter, so it’s moving around a lot. I was sort of taking it step-by-step and sort of went full blast in qualifying.

“The whole Dale Coyne Racing team has been doing a great job in getting me up to speed with all the procedure stuff. I’m here to learn as much as I can. At the end of the day, I’ll obviously do my best and see what that is and try to keep learning.”

Pietro’s family has had their share of success at the one-mile oval. His grandfather, Emerson, captured his penultimate victory in his legendary open wheel career at Phoenix in 1994 for Team Penske.

His cousin, Christian, who was running in Formula 1 for Footwork when Emerson won, made one start at Phoenix, finishing 10th for Derrick Walker in 1995.

Coming from a prestigious family, Pietro has been given advice, but he said producing solid results will be based on what he’ll learn on the track instead of simply being fast.

“Everyone’s giving me a lot of advice and I try to put that into the track, and try to do my best when I go out there,” Pietro added. “At the end of the day, no one can teach you how to drive fast. That just sort of comes and I just try to do my best.”

Pietro is scheduled to run six more races, including two more oval races.

He’ll attempt to qualify for the 102nd Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana May 27th, and will run the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway in Ft. Worth, Texas June 9th.

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography ranging from Idaho athletics to auto racing with ambitions of having his work recognized.