Saturday, September 23, 2023

Malukas Qualifying Frustrations ‘Not My Problem’ – O’Ward

Pato O'Ward won the pole for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.
Pato O’Ward won the pole for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. Image courtesy of Joe Skibinski / Penske Entertainment

Pato O’Ward isn’t worried about any frustrations or impeding claims from NTT IndyCar Series rookie David Malukas.

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O’Ward put the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet on pole for the Honda Indy 200 after an intense qualifying bout on Saturday afternoon. In the case of Malukas, there was never an opportunity fight for pole after his No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports Honda was knocked out of the Fast 12.

During second round of the qualifying, Malukas initially laid down the fastest lap at 1m06.8201s (121.652 mph) on the 13-turn, 2.258-mile road course. With the Firestone alternate (red sidewall) tires at their optimum performance after multiple laps, the 20-year-old Chicago native remained on track and was poised for an even quicker lap time. However, Malukas ended up closing in on the back of O’Ward and had his run stalled out, ending up eighth and not advancing to the Fast Six after rivals, including O’Ward, hit their respective laps to reset the running order.

Following the session, an angry Malukas believed O’Ward should have received a penalty for impeding instead of given an opportunity to fight – and eventually win – the pole.

During the post-qualifying media availability, O’Ward shared his perspective of the incident.

“Yeah, it’s not my problem,” declared O’Ward, 23. “I think he’s got to learn how to distance himself and learn that. I think he put himself in that position because the red tires were coming in in lap 3 and he was on my gearbox in lap 1. It’s like, ‘What do you think I’m going to let you by or something? I’m in my program, too.’

“I don’t think I was doing anything wrong there. I was gapping to Simon (Pagenaud) and he decided not to do so and he had a pretty big gap and usually people respect when someone gaps in front of you they keep gapping so you’re not really under threat.

“But yeah, I saw that. I was also surprised. I was like, ‘Why isn’t he backing away?’ But yeah, he did that to himself.”

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