Thursday, September 21, 2023

IndyCar Rookie David Malukas Charges to Runner-Up Result at WWT Raceway

David Malukas at World Wide Technology Raceway ahead of the 2022 Bommarito Automotive Group 500.
David Malukas at World Wide Technology Raceway ahead of the 2022 Bommarito Automotive Group 500. Photo courtesy of James Black/Penske Entertainment.

MADISON, Ill. — After a few mishaps in his rookie campaign in the NTT IndyCar Series, David Malukas brought his mechanics doughnuts. Stan’s Doughnuts became a staple in the Dale Coyne Racing shop as Malukas brought the sweets as a bit of a thanks to his mechanics for repairing his car after an accident.

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The crew on the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports Honda might get a few more doughnuts from their driver, but as a celebration instead of due to an incident.

The Chicago native raced his way to second place in Saturday’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at WWT Raceway, just .4708 seconds behind Josef Newgarden.

Malukas started 12th in the 26 car field and used a late pit stop on Lap 211 to get fresher tires for the final run to the finish of the 260-lap race. IndyCar called a caution for rain and then for a red flag that lasted over two hours. Malukas made his presence felt after the Lap 224 restart.

The 2021 Indy Lights series runner-up restarted in fifth place but got fourth from Will Power on the first lap after the restart. Power regained his position but Malukas got by the 2018 WWT Raceway winner again on Lap 230 and set off after Pato O’Ward for third place.

Malukas then passed the 2018 Indy Lights champion for third place on Lap 244. All that was ahead of the 20-year-old were the two Team Penske machines of Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin.

The chase was on.

“I saw them go through one and two and I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, they’re Penskes! I’m going behind Penskes right now! This is crazy,’” Malukas said. “To me, as a kid, I used to always watch and I just could only dream of it. Every time through practice, every time they passed me, I always let them by, Man… It’s definitely special to me. 

“I was trying so hard to not get nervous. I mean, I was nervous, but I was trying so hard not to get overexcited and do something stupid. Yeah, it’s definitely intimidating when there’s two Penskes in front of you.”

Malukas spent several laps trying to catch the two Penske cars in front of him. After a couple of looks, Malukas overtook the New Zealand native on the outside of Turns 1-2 on the last lap of the race.

Malukas credited his spotter, 1985 Indianapolis 500 polesitter Pancho Carter, with the inspiration to make that move on the outside of the three-time Supercars champion.

I definitely went for it with two to go mainly just because Pancho told me,” Malukas said. “He’s like, ‘Do it, go up there.’

“It worked very well. I had that bit of clean air on the front right wing, I was able to get a run. Because the track was so much quicker with it being so much later, I hit the limiter in sixth gear. I couldn’t get a tow or suck on him. We had to go two-wide in one and two. Scary going wide there. Definitely getting some loose ends.”

Malukas tried hard to catch Newgarden but ran out of time. With another lap, it’s very possible that Malukas could have won the race.

“I don’t know, It’s tough,” Malukas said. “[Josef] had lapped traffic. That’s the only reason why I could get to McLaughlin and Newgarden. Yeah, maybe a bit of a chance. Definitely would have done some stupid thing to get really close to [Newgarden]. It’s not like they were slow, they were really quick. It would have been interesting.”

Newgarden saw Malukas in his mirrors as the race wound down.

“I thought wow, that kid is hungry probably,” Newgarden said. “Probably send it around the outside if he had an opportunity […]. I was real happy it was the last lap.

“I think if David mounted like a real effort on me, I would have had more to push on him. But I don’t know. 10 more laps, maybe he gets me. It’s impossible to say. I think time worked out for us.”

Malukas had a lot of confidence going into his first IndyCar race at WWT Raceway. With two Indy Lights wins at the 1.25-mile oval in 2021 and a recent successful rookie test, there was reason for confidence going into Saturday afternoon’s race.

“Honestly, this is the most cockiest I’ve been,” Malukas told “This race, I just had so much confidence with the car. Even when I had little moments like pushing really aggressive or going on the apron on the curve and hitting that line and like losing the car almost. Even doing all that, I’m still like, ‘Oh, it’s okay, whatever.’ I just had so much confidence with the car.”

Dale Coyne Racing’s eponymous team owner was very enthused with his young driver’s performance.

“He’s just improved all year long, all year long,” Coyne said of Malukas. “He’s improved, so it’s going good. The whole team’s gelling nicely, the stops went good, Ross (Bunnell) his engineer did a great job tonight, David, what can he say? So he’s, he’s doing great.” 

Team manager Terry Brown was also extremely pleased with Malukas’s drive.

“His ability to set up the guys was awesome and then late in the race after we went green again, after the rain caution, he was fairly aggressive,” Brown told, “Pancho told him early on that the upper groove was looking pretty good from where he was at and they cleaned it up well. And he was quick to take advantage of that.”

It seems the crew was pretty happy, too.

Malukas’s runner-up finish was Dale Coyne Racing’s fourth podium on an oval, their most recent being Ed Jones’s third-place finish at the 2017 Indianapolis 500.

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