Dale Coyne wants Pietro Fittipaldi Indy 500 replacement by next week

David Malsher
Coyne wants Fittipaldi replacement by next week
Coyne wants Fittipaldi replacement by next week

Dale Coyne Racing hopes to have a 2018 Indianapolis 500 replacement for the injured Pietro Fittipaldi in place by the end of next week.

Fittipaldi suffered a high-speed crash in qualifying for the World Endurance Championship season opener at Spa Francorchamps on Friday, suffering a compound fracture of his lower left leg and a broken right ankle.

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The grandson of two-time Indy 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi is now expected to take around eight weeks to recover, ruling him out of IndyCar's flagship race.

Fittipaldi is sharing a Dale Coyne Racing entry with Indy Lights graduate Zachary Claman de Melo, with the Brazilian racing in seven of the 17 races.

DCR owner Dale Coyne told Autosport that De Melo could be drafted in for the Indianapolis road course race, but is unsure on an Indy 500 drive.

"The most important thing is that Pietro is going to be OK," he said. "That's a nasty injury, although I'm surprised it was that bad from that shunt.

"I spoke to his dad and from what he says the doctors have told him, he should be back with us for Mid-Ohio, at the end of July.

"Zachary was already down to do Detroit, Road America, Iowa and Toronto, so no change there.

"So as far as standing in for him is concerned, we haven't talked to Zachary about the Indy 500.

"He's obviously the logical choice for the Indy road course next week but the 500, I don't know. It's a big step. We'd have to talk a little more about that.

"We'll also talk to PaySafe [De Melo's sponsor] on Monday about what they might want to do.

"Texas is another one I'm not so sure about Zachary doing at this [early] stage of his [IndyCar] career."

Coyne added that any bid for a replacement will be made easier by the fact that it has recent success at the Indy 500, with Sebastien Bourdais set for pole before his accident last year and Ed Jones finishing third in the race.

"The good thing is that after our Indy performance last year, we've got quite a few people interested," he said.

"This year, we've been strong on ovals again, Sebastien got pole at Phoenix and Pietro started [in the] top 10 for his first IndyCar race [at Phoenix].

"So I think we should have something figured out toward the end of next week, hopefully before then."

Fittipaldi did not run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last week, unlike other rookies.

That means his replacement can complete the rookie orientation programme in his place, which was slated for May 15.

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