Birmingham, AL (April 21, 2018) – Dale Coyne Racing’s Zachary Claman De Melo registered his best Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying result on Saturday. The Canadian placed 16th on the starting grid for Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, but it was a bittersweet result as he had the potential for more in a session that was cut short due to a Red Flag coming out for a car in the barrier.
Claman De Melo took to the 2.3-mile, 17-turn road course in the second qualifying group, and unfortunately for the #19 Paysafe driver, it was the unlucky one to be in.
The Dale Coyne Racing rookie opted to make his first qualifying run on Firestone Black tires on which he registered a lap of 1:08.5531, that initially placed him sixth in his group. Upon entering pit lane one lap later for a fresh set of Firestone Reds, Claman De Melo found himself eighth in his group with plenty of potential to make his way up the time charts and into the next round.
Unfortunately for the rookie, a Red Flag came out with just over three minutes to go and with not enough time left to remove the disabled vehicle, the checkered flag flew and Claman De Melo never had a chance to make a qualifying run on his Firestone Reds. He had to, disappointingly, settle for 16th on the grid.
“On the bright side, it was our best qualifying result this year, but it’s frustrating because the #19 Paysafe car was really good and I think we had the potential to make it to the second round. We were faster than some guys on Firestone Reds with our black tires. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get a chance to go out on the Reds in the final minutes of the session because of the Red Flag cutting it short but I think we’ll be fine for the race.”
Claman De Melo has four Indy Lights starts at Barber Motorsport Park, in which he scored three Top 10 finishes, including two fifth place results, but Sunday’s race will be his first race at the picturesque venue aboard an Indy Car.
The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama goes green on Sunday, April 22 at 2:42pm local time and will be broadcast live on NBCSN from 3pm ET. The race will also be broadcast live on the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network, including SIRIUS/XM 209/214.