All it took was a polystyrene advertising sign to completely flip the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year battle upside down.
Christian Lundgaard was running in eighth place behind Alexander Rossi late in the Grand Prix of Portland. Rossi went off track briefly in front of the Danish racer and Lundgaard attempted to pass the Californian in Turn 7. Lundgaard gave Rossi a lot of room and did not complete the pass, making another pass attempt going into Turn 1 on Lap 95.
The No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda then went through the runoff area on the inside of the chicane. Lundgaard had missed his braking point and the car hit an advertising banner that then wedged itself on the nose of the car. Lundgaard’s aerodynamics were compromised with that banner and he had to slow down.
"This sign is dangerous and inconvenient, but I sure do love the NTT @INDYCAR SERIES."
— INDYCAR on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) September 4, 2022
Lundgaard pitted immediately and dropped to 21st place. Despite running quicker laps than Rinus VeeKay in 20th place, Lundgaard lost so much time with the banner that he couldn’t gain any more positions.
As for Malukas, the WWT Raceway runner-up kept his nose clean all race and finished 14th. By finishing 14th, the Chicago native narrowed the gap from 11 points down to five heading to the season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
Malukas isn’t worried as much about the final result as he is about making sure he and the team execute their plan. The Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports entry tested at WRLS recently and made gains on the car’s setup.
“We already tested there on Monday and we started off not great, but by the end of the day, we actually had a pretty decent car,” Malukas told TobyChristie.com. “So I’m looking forward to it. Going to Laguna is very, very tough, all about consistency. I mean, especially when one patch of dust goes up, the car feels very different for the next three laps. And it also depends on who does it, where you are on track. So it’s going to be spicy. It’s going to be interesting. And hopefully we get a good strategy, but I think we’ll have a pretty decent car for that weekend.”
Malukas has past race experience at WRLS with the Road to Indy, but the close battle between him and Lundgaard plus Callum Ilott and Kyle Kirkwood’s brief flashes of brilliance mean that that advantage isn’t as large as one would think.
“It is tight, you know, so we’ll see. Hopefully we can. I mean it’s in the back of our heads, but we’re not fully focusing on it,” Malukas said. “I know Dale (Coyne) is, Dale’s really pushing me. But at the end of the day, I’m just enjoying my time here at IndyCar. And yeah, if we get it, great. If we don’t, great, because you know, I think all these rookies deserve it. We’ve kind of had a stellar rookie year.”
Rookie Points and Overall Standings
- Christian Lundgaard 293 (15th)
- David Malukas 288 (16th)
- Callum Ilott 213 (20th)
- Devlin DeFrancesco 191 (23rd)
- Kyle Kirkwood 174 (24th)