By Kirby Arnold, Staff Writer
INDIANAPOLIS – Three years later than it was supposed to happen, a Fittipaldi is back in the Indianapolis 500.
Pietro Fittipaldi, 24-year-old grandson of two-time Indy winner and former Formula 1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi, qualified 13th fastest Saturday in the Dale Coyne Racing No. 51 car and will start the May 30 race on the inside of the fifth row at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
His Indy debut was supposed to happen in 2018.
Just days before he was to drive a Coyne car at Indy, Fittipaldi crashed on May 4, 2018, while attempting to qualify for a World Endurance Championship race at Spa. He suffered broken bones in both legs and didn’t race for two months.
While cars were on track at Indy that year, Fittipaldi spent the month of May living in a motorhome at the speedway as he underwent treatment by IndyCar safety consultant Dr. Terry Trammell.
Back in a Coyne car this month, Fittipaldi had a solid week of practice and posted a four-lap average speed of 230.846 mph Saturday. He’s the first Fittipaldi in the 500 since cousin Christian Fittipaldi, who finished second in 1995. Grandfather Emerson, who won the 500 in 1989 and 1993, last made the race in 1994.
“It’s an amazing feeling to be a part of the 500,” Fittipaldi said. “It’s all a buildup, a hype to the race. There’s hype and buildup to qualifying as well. You start feeling the nerves before you go out. And it’ll be the same for the race next week. It’s the most important race in the world.”
Fittipaldi is a nephew of former IndyCar driver Max Papis, now a steward for the series.
Fittipaldi was 15th in line to qualify Saturday, and felt fortunate to make his run in a cloudy condition on a cooler track than drivers who qualified later.
“If it was sunny, it would have risen the track temperature,” he said. “It wasn’t that bad. The car felt great and I feel very happy about that. Now we can focus on the race.”