The race for the final seat at the 102nd Indianapolis 500 appears to be a toss-up between Zachary Claman De Melo, who finished a fine 12th for the team at the Indy GP, and IndyCar veteran Sebastian Saavedra.
“It will be a familiar name,” team owner Dale Coyne told RACER. “We’re planning to announce the driver Tuesday morning.”
The No. 19 Honda, shared this season by Claman De Melo and Pietro Fittipaldi, has been the subject of active negotiations by Coyne since the injuries suffered by Fittipaldi earlier this month took him out of the cockpit for the Indy GP and Indy 500.
Claman De Melo was drafted in to pilot the No. 19 for the Indy GP and, with Rookie Orientation Program running set to start in less than 24 hours, the French-Canadian has remained in Indy and spent part of Monday with the team in Gasoline Alley while waiting to learn whether he’ll be in the car for the rest of the month.
Saavedra is believed to be in a similar holding pattern after Coyne contacted the Colombian over the weekend.
A steady stream of drivers have called or visited the Dale Coyne Racing garages since Fittipaldi’s accident. Of the many names that have emerged, Mazda Road to Indy veteran Juan Piedrahita, who earned pole for the Gateway Indy Lights round in 2017, is said to have piqued Coyne’s interest with a significant budget that was offered.
Winless in more than 100 MRTI starts, the genial Colombian was eventually told his potential as an IndyCar driver would need to be explored through a testing program outside of the month of May.
It leaves Claman De Melo waiting to find out if he’s taking part in the ROP session from 1-4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, and Saavedra wondering if he needs to arrive early to get the pedals and other cockpit controls adjusted to his liking. And who knows if the cagey Coyne has another driver waiting in the wings to pilot the No. 19.
With the opening day of practice almost here, DCR’s Sebastian Bourdais, Conor Daly, and Pippa Mann can rest easy. At least for now, their unidentified fourth teammate cannot say the same.