Zachary Claman De Melo is expected to return to the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda sooner than planned when he steps into the car for this weekend’s Indianapolis Grand Prix.
The French-Canadian, who shares the No. 19 this season with Pietro Fittipaldi, is the first piece in a complicated puzzle for DCR as it handles the unexpected absence of the injured Fittipaldi.
With Claman De Melo in for the GP, it leaves DCR with the Indy 500 and the June 9 oval race at Texas to fill while Fittipaldi is on the mend.
Ongoing talks with a number of drivers will eventually lead to a selection by the veteran team owner, but it’s believed contractual obligations with Paysafe, which is featured on the sidepods of the No. 19, will make the negotiations more challenging than usual.
With Fittipaldi scheduled to compete in just seven of the 17 races on the calendar, Claman De Melo’s sponsors hold the majority of real estate on the No. 19. It means that even with Fittipaldi and his sponsors removed from the equation for Indy and Texas, any new sponsors his replacement(s) might bring will need to fit around Paysafe’s primary billing.
RACER understands that despite missing the recent Rookie Orientation Program offering at the Speedway, IndyCar would allow Claman De Melo to complete his ROP run on Tuesday, May 15, during the three hours it has set aside for first-time Indy 500 drivers, provided he comes to terms with the team.
Thanks to its participation in IndyCar’s Leader Circle payout program, DCR’s No. 19 will need to take part in every round. Exactly how that is accomplished should, as DCR has shown throughout the years, bring plenty of intrigue and speculation to the paddock in the weeks ahead.