Some Verizon IndyCar Series teams loaded up and headed south this week to take part in a two-day test in Sebring. Wednesday, was the big test with most of the cars taking to the Central Florida road course for a full days work. On Thursday though, a few of the team stayed behind and worked some more. One of those was Dale Coyne Racing.
On Wednesday, DCR tested Zachary Claman DeMelo in the No. 19 Honda. He was the first driver to get the nod in the open seat. But, a completely new driver was with the team on Thursday. That driver was the son of a former two-time Indianapolis 500 champion.
Pietro Fittipaldi, grandson of Emerson Fittipaldi, got the call to turn his first laps in an INDYCAR this morning. Fittipaldi, 21, tested Sebastien Bourdais’ No. 18 Honda while the No. 19 Honda wasn’t on track.
Fittipaldi, had first started out with a NASCAR ambition. But, in 2013, he moved to Europe to try and follow in his grandpa’s footstep. The elder Fittipaldi, is a two-time Formula One champion to go along with a CART title to his credit. He won 14 F1 races from 1970-1980 to go along with 22 trips to victory lane in CART competition. The 22 wins rank him 19th on the all-time wins list, as two of those victories were in the Indy 500 (1989, 1993).
His grandson getting the test is a bit of a surprise as it was widely rumored that Claman DeMelo and Jack Hawksworth were the top two favorites to land in that second car for 2018. But, Hawksworth was busy with his IMSA obligations in Daytona, so Fittipaldi got the nod on Thursday.
Fittipaldi’s uncles are Christian Fittipaldi and Max Papis. He’s coming off of a championship winning season in the Formula V8 3.5 series in Europe where he won six races with Lotus. He was 10th in the standings a year prior. He was in Formula 3 in 2015 and other European racing series’ prior to that.
As I wrote yesterday, the legend of “TBA” was back with the team for this offseason but for factors much different than before.
DCR thought back in the fall that they had their driver lineup set already. Sebastien Bourdais was contracted to return to the team for the second straight season as he will be in the No. 18 Honda. Also, 2017 Rookie of the Year Ed Jones was supposed to come back as well.
While Jones and DCR didn’t officially have anything signed yet, both sides had a handshake agreement in place. Jones wanted to be back and DCR wanted his services back as well. The two sides were in talks for months about 2018 and were all but a signature on paper away from it happening. Unfortunately for DCR, Chip Ganassi Racing got word that nothing was formally signed yet. They knew Tony Kanaan wouldn’t be back with them in the No. 10 Honda, but never seriously courted Jones. They were always under the assumption that he had a deal signed with DCR. When they found out nothing was actually signed, they put on the full court press.
Jones, left for Ganassi which left DCR’s second seat open.
Now, throw Fittipalidi’s name in the mix with Claman DeMelo and Hawksworth for a chance to end up in this ride for 2018.