David Malukas was left frustrated after a stellar run in NTT IndyCar Series qualifying for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio ended in controversial fashion.
The 20-year-old rookie pilot has shown strong pace throughout the weekend, with the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports Honda placing eighth and fourth in the two practice sessions. The momentum continued in qualifying as he advanced comfortably into the Fast 12 – his second appearance in the round this season.
Malukas ended up putting down a quick lap of 1m06.8201s (121.652 mph) at the 13-turn, 2.258-mile road course and initially placed top of the group. Remaining on track and poised to go even faster, but his attempt stalled out as he came up on the back of the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet of O’Ward.
Meanwhile, other drivers, including O’Ward, managed to hit their respective quick laps to reset the running order. Malukas ended up falling to eighth and not advancing into the Fast Six, where he was forced to watch O’Ward win the pole.
“I’m quite angry right now because I thought we were being impeded on my last lap but the car in front of me [O’Ward] didn’t get a penalty for it,” Malukas said. “We left some time out there that I think would have sent us to the Fast Six. We were on a 66.5 lap, which would have put us in the top three.
“It’s unfortunate because I couldn’t show everything that the Dale Coyne HMD car had today. It was spectacular. We tried different things in practice and got to the top six in the first group and the car was right where it needed to be in the Fast 12.
“Unfortunately, I ended up getting blocked and couldn’t make it in. But overall, the fact that we’re unhappy with P8 shows that we’re going in the right direction.”
It marks his second-best qualifying attempt of the season (sixth, Detroit) for Malukas, who has a best finish of 11th (Detroit, Texas) in eight career IndyCar starts.
When asked by NBC Sports reporter Dillon Welch during the Peacock broadcast about the possibility of winning from eighth, Malukas responded, “Well, we’ll see. I mean, that’s what makes IndyCar so special; you could start anywhere on the grid and have a chance to win it. So, as long as we do a good strategy and have some clean pits with these tight pit boxes here, I think there’s always still a chance.”