Sunday, November 27, 2022

2022 IndyCar Driver Reviews: David Malukas and Simon Pagenaud

Simon Pagenaud leads Dalton Kellett and David Malukas at Barber Motorsports Park in the 2022 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
Simon Pagenaud leads Dalton Kellett and David Malukas at Barber Motorsports Park in the 2022 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Photo courtesy of Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment.

Over the next several weeks there will be a driver review series published starting with the 20th placed driver in the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship. This will continue until reaching Will Power, the 2022 IndyCar Series champion.

Here, we will focus on David Malukas (16th place) and Simon Pagenaud (15th place).

David Malukas parlayed his runner-up finish in the 2021 Indy Lights championship into an IndyCar ride with Dale Coyne Racing in partnership with his family’s race team: HMD Motorsports.

The Chicago native had a rough start to 2022 with two incidents in the first three races and another on Carb Day before the Indianapolis 500. Malukas’s frustration was compounded by not being selected as the 2022 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year despite being the highest-finishing rookie.

However, Malukas started to put together a more consistent second half of the season. With more evident pace, Malukas started to shine and only had one retirement in the last nine races that wasn’t even his fault.

Malukas finished 14th or better in eight of the final nine races but had perhaps the pass of the year at WWT Raceway.

With 1985 Indianapolis 500 polesitter Pancho Carter in the spotter’s stand guiding the rookie, Malukas moved through the contenders in the top five and got to Scott McLaughlin’s rear wing as the final lap began.

Malukas’s pass on the outside in Turn 1 made him an instant favorite with the crowd and those watching at home. Unfortunately, the racing fortune at WWT Raceway did not carry over to the final two races of the season and Malukas did not win Rookie of the Year.

That doesn’t mean that all is lost, however. Malukas will be back with the Dale Coyne Racing/HMD Motorsports No. 18 Honda in 2023. That relationship should bear fruit with even better results.

In seven years with Team Penske, Simon Pagenaud won 11 races and the 2016 IndyCar championship. However, the 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner left the organization after 2021 for Meyer Shank Racing’s No. 60 Honda.

Pagenaud partnered former Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves and all should’ve been right with the world. And for a while, it was.

With a change of scenery, Pagenaud started the year with a runner-up finish at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in May and six top-10 finishes in the first 10 races of the season.

After Toronto, Pagenaud was 10th in points. A seventh place finish at IndyCar’s first race in Canada since 2019 (a race that Pagenaud won) set the French racer up for a good run in the summer stretch.

In previous seasons, Pagenaud had wins at Iowa Speedway and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. There were also multiple top five finishes at WWT Raceway along with solid results at Portland International Raceway and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. The future looked bright.

However in the final seven races, Pagenaud had a ninth place finish at Nashville, a 17th at the season finale and five finishes of 20th or worse. Pagenaud’s final seven races mirrored Rinus VeeKay’s second half of 2021 as both racers in those respective seasons dropped several places in IndyCar points.

It was a difficult stretch for one of IndyCar’s most versatile drivers, but 2023 can’t arrive for Pagenaud and the entire Meyer Shank Racing IndyCar team soon enough.

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