Veteran Fittipaldi Gaining Experience like Rookie with RLL

  • Racing News
Pietro Fittipaldi

Pietro Fittipaldi, grandson of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and 1989 INDYCAR SERIES champion Emerson Fittipaldi, is preaching patience.

Fittipaldi, 27, has 10 NTT INDYCAR SERIES points-paying starts. Six of those 10 came in a part-time effort with Dale Coyne Racing in 2018, with a best result of ninth at Portland International Raceway. The next two seasons he competed in other forms of motorsports before returning to DCR for three starts in 2021, with a best finish of 15th at Texas.

Then Fittipaldi raced in other series for two more years before coming back to the INDYCAR SERIES this season with a full schedule for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. This time, he hopes to be around for the long haul.

Sitting 15th in points after one race, Fittipaldi feels like he’s working his way to that point.

Fittipaldi was a hard-charger in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding on March 10, climbing 11 spots, 26th to 15th, in his No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.

“St. Petersburg was my first street race,” he said. “I just wanted to take it step by step. We evolved a lot in the race.”

Fittipaldi returned to the cockpit last month for the exhibition event at The Thermal Club, a 17-turn, 3.067-mile road course near Palm Springs, California. It was a strong weekend with him joining RLL teammates Graham Rahal and Christian Lundgaard in the 20-lap Sprint For The Purse.

His hopes of taking the $500,000 prize for victory were dashed at halftime, Lap 10 of the 20-lap main event. Fittipaldi was disqualified from the second half of the Sprint after the RLL team mistakenly failed to fill his car with Shell Renewable Racing Fuel, as specified by the special event’s rules.

The error didn’t detract Fittipaldi’s outlook moving forward. He trusts RLL and understands the situation. The long outlook is momentum is being built, and he hopes to capitalize at the next event on the schedule, Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 21.

“The speed is there,” he said. “We just got to keep working.”

Fittipaldi admits in a championship as competitive as the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, he’s facing an uphill battle due to his inexperience. Despite knowing only four of the 16 tracks on the schedule, Fittipaldi has competed in too many races to be considered a rookie. That status confers benefits that include getting an extra set of Firestone Firehawk tires for practice.

Among the 10 previous INDYCAR SERIES starts, just Indianapolis Motor Speedway (oval), Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, World Wide Technology Raceway and Portland International Raceway are current tracks on the schedule where he has experience.

That’s why he’s cautiously optimistic about how the 2024 season will transpire. He noticed a step up in performance at The Thermal Club and hopes RLL can maximize that potential moving forward.

“Keep everyone motivated,” he said. “There's still going to be tough weekends ahead where I don't know tracks. We need to just be patient. We’ve got to keep the same level or same approach.

“When we feel confident and we understand the place, we're going to deliver in qualifying and in the race. So that's the same approach we'll be doing for all the race weekends. Just keep working. I'm so happy to be racing in the car, and I'm so excited for the future here.”