Photos: IndyCar

Pietro Fittipaldi, grandson of Emerson Fittipaldi, reportedly breaks both legs in crash at Belgium’s Spa

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UPDATE No. 1 (1: 20 p.m. ET): According to several media reports, Pietro Fittipaldi has been airlifted to a hospital with what a statement from the World Endurance Championship said are “suspected fractures to both legs.”

The WEC statement also said Fittipaldi remained conscious throughout a lengthy extrication from the mangled wreck of his car and that his injuries were not life-threatening.

If he indeed has fractures in both legs, Fittipaldi’s hopes to qualify to race in the May 27th Indianapolis 500 — which would have been his first try at the race his legendary grandfather Emerson Fittipaldi won twice (1989 and 1993) — are done for this year.

NBC Sports has reached out to Dale Coyne Racing, for which Pietro Fittipaldi was slated to qualify for the 500, for a statement and who will replace the younger Fittipaldi in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

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Pietro Fittipaldi, grandson of legendary open-wheel racer Emerson Fittipaldi, was injured this morning in a heavy crash at Circuit de Spa-Francocorchamps in Belgium.

The 21-year-old Brazilian was on-track during qualifying for the opening round of the 2018 FIA World Endurance Championship Super Season when his DragonSpeed BR1 wrecked hard in the Eau Rouge section of the track.

Eau Rouge is considered one of the most difficult corners in motorsports.

From a video replay, it appeared Fittipaldi’s car began to lose control after hitting a rumble strip as it climbed a hill, bottomed out and then ran head-on into a tire wall at full speed.

https://youtu.be/Vwg0lk0SRsc

It took rescue workers several minutes to extricate the 2017 World Endurance Championship V8 World Series Champion from the mangled wreck.

The session was red-flagged for over 30 minutes.

Fittipaldi was transported to a local hospital. There is no word on his condition yet.

Pietro Fittipaldi, left, talks with Dale Coyne Racing teammate Sebastien Bourdais last month at Phoenix. Photo: IndyCar.

Two weeks from now, Fittipaldi is slated to attempt to qualify the No. 19 Honda for this year’s 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 for Dale Coyne Racing, for which he is running a part-time schedule as a rookie on the Verizon IndyCar Series this season.

He’s one of 35 drivers entered in the May 27th running of the 500, for which daily practice begins on May 15.

Pietro Fittipaldi has just one IndyCar start to date: he started 10th and finished 23rd at Phoenix last month on April 7.

We will update this story as additional information becomes available.

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Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).