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Dale Coyne Racing confirms Fittipaldi, Claman DeMelo in No. 19

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The final full-time seat in the Verizon IndyCar Series has been filled. Pietro Fittipaldi, last year’s World Series Formula V8 3.5 champion, and Zachary Claman DeMelo, a race winner in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship, will split time behind the wheel of Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 19 Honda, alongside veteran Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 18.

Global payments provider Paysafe, which sponsored Claman DeMelo during his outing with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing at last year’s season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, will serve as the primary sponsor of the entry.

Claman DeMelo will begin the season with the team at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in March, while Fittipaldi, the grandson of Formula 1 world champion, IndyCar champion, and Indianapolis 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi, will see his first race action at the Phoenix Grand Prix at ISM Raceway in April and is also scheduled to race the entry at the Indianapolis 500.

In total, Fittipaldi will contest seven races, with Claman DeMelo slated for the other ten.

“Paysafe helped me attain a life ambition last September when I made my Verizon IndyCar Series debut in Sonoma,” Claman DeMelo said in a team announcement. “I am hugely grateful for their ongoing support as I prepare for the forthcoming races; I feel proud to be representing their brand again on the race track and I shall be doing all I can to get the Paysafe car into victory lane!”

Fittipaldi, meanwhile, expressed great excitement at the chance to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather Emerson and uncle Christian by bringing the Fittipaldi name back to Indianapolis.

“This is a dream come true, even more so to be racing in the Indy 500, where my family already has a history of great results,” revealed the young Fittipaldi. “I want to thank the entire team at Dale Coyne Racing, along with my long-time sponsors, Escuderia Telmex and Paysafe for this massive opportunity and important step in my career. I’m very excited and proud to be racing on a world stage like the Verizon IndyCar Series this year.”

Both Fittipaldi and Claman DeMelo are in Phoenix this week for IndyCar Media Day, with Fittipaldi also set to begin testing at ISM Raceway after the team fitted his seat into the No. 19 chassis.

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Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”