Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan announced Tuesday (May 15) that rookie Zachary Claman De Melo will remain in the No. 19 Paysafe-sponsored Honda-Dallara and compete in his first Indianapolis 500.
The move was announced just hours before De Melo was scheduled to go through rookie orientation.
“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,” De Melo said in a press release. “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 [Fittipaldi]’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.”
De Melo comes into the Indianapolis 500 off of his best-ever race in the Verizon IndyCar Series. On Saturday (May 12), De Melo spent a decent amount of the INDYCAR Grand Prix in the top 10 before dropping back to a 12th-place finish. The run is his career best in five starts.
De Melo has two previous starts on the 2.5-mile oval in Indy Lights, one for Juncos Racing and one for Carlin Racing. His best Indy Lights finish in the Freedom 100 was a sixth last year.
The move means De Melo will be in the car for the next three weeks. He was already scheduled to drive the No. 19 in the Chevrolet Grand Prix doubleheader at Belle Isle Park prior to Fittipaldi’s injuries. The team’s press release indicates that Fittipaldi will be out of the car for at least another eight weeks. It is still unclear who will drive the car at Texas Motor SPeedway in a few weeks.
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Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.