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Pietro Fittipaldi out of intensive care after surgery on two fractured legs

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Pietro Fittipaldi’s hoped-for debut in the Indianapolis 500 for Dale Coyne Racing on May 27 ended before he could even get started.

The 21-year-old Brazilian driver underwent successful surgery Friday night at a hospital in Belgium to stabilize two fractured legs, the result of a wicked head-on crash during qualifying for the WEC season opener earlier Friday at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.

Pietro, grandson of former F1 champ and two-time Indy 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi, was taken out of intensive care this morning, motorsports ruling body FIA said in a statement.

“At 10:30 (a.m.) [CET] today he left intensive care,” the statement said. “His father was with him throughout the night.”

The younger Fittipaldi is expected to be sidelined for at least eight weeks while he recovers from the hard hit.

MORE: Pietro Fittipladi, grandson of Emerson Fittipaldi, hurt in hard crash at Belgium’s Spa

A World Endurance Championship statement read: “Pietro Fittipaldi is well and his condition is stable.

“He was operated on last night for fractures to both his legs, and the operation went well. He remains under observation at the Centre Hospitalier de la Citadelle de Liege.

“The left leg, which suffered a complex fracture, has been satisfactorily operated upon. Pietro was completely conscious on exiting the Operating Suite and was able to describe what happened to him.”

The younger Fittipaldi, who won last year’s Formula V8 3.5 championship, was making his way through the very difficult Eau Rouge area of the famed Spa track when he bounced awkwardly off a rumble strip, lost control and crashed head-on into a barrier.

Safety workers struggled to free him from the damage of his No. 10 DragonSpeed BR Engineering LMP1, leading to a red-flag qualifying stoppage that lasted over 30 minutes.

He was transported by helicopter to a local hospital in Liege, Belgium, for treatment of his injuries.

Fittipaldi was driving in place of Renger van der Zande in what would have been the former’s WEC debut. He had been splitting his time this season competing between WEC, Super Formula and IndyCar.

After qualifying 10th, he finished 23rd in his first IndyCar race a month ago in Phoenix at ISM Raceway. The Indy 500 was scheduled to be his second race on the IndyCar circuit.

Fittipaldi was also slated to drive in several other IndyCar races including Texas, Mid-Ohio, Portland and the season-ending race at Sonoma.

If he indeed heals in eight weeks without complications, Fittipaldi’s next race could potentially be at Fuji, Japan in July in the Super Formula series for Team LeMans.

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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.”