Shortly before the start of opening day practice for the 102nd Indianapolis 500, Dale Coyne Racing announced that Zachary Claman De Melo will return to the seat of the team’s No. 19 Paysafe car for the 500.
The Canadian rookie, who is coming off his best result of the season with a 12th-place finish at last Saturday’s IndyCar Grand Prix (pictured above), will be among the 35 drivers vying for a spot in the field of 33 cars for the Indianapolis 500 on May 27.
Claman De Melo is replacing Pietro Fittipaldi, who was originally scheduled to drive the No. 19 Paysafe car in both races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. However, injuries suffered in a qualifying crash at Spa during a World Endurance Championship event have sidelined him for at least eight weeks.
Claman De Melo will have to complete his Rookie Orientation Program this afternoon before he is allowed to take to the track with the rest of the field. During the ROP session, a rookie has to complete three phases in which he needs to turn 10 laps between 205 and 210mph, 15 laps between 210 and 215mph and 15 laps at 215mph or faster.
“I’m very much looking forward to turning my first laps aboard the No. 19 Paysafe Indy car on the oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” said Claman De Melo. “It’s an iconic venue and I’m extremely fortunate to be able to have the opportunity to drive here. Again, it’s unfortunate that it’s under these circumstances with Pietro’s injuries so I realize how lucky I am to have this chance.
“I want to thank Dale [Coyne] and Paysafe for giving me this opportunity. I can’t wait to get on track to complete my rookie orientation program.”
While it’s the first time that Claman De Melo will be running in an Indy car on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, he has competed in the Indy Lights race there, finishing with a best result of sixth last season.
The Rookie Orientation Program will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. this afternoon with the track then being open to all cars from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Practice then takes place from 11am to 6 p.m. from Wednesday, May 16 to Friday, May 18.