FORT WORTH, Tex. – In a wild and woolly NTT IndyCar Series superspeedway race at Texas Motor Speedway, nearly anything could happen. The top drivers on the grid often come to the front at the end. Some smaller teams can also make an impact.
Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports’ David Malukas is in that latter group. Despite being on the wrong pit strategy late in the race before getting bailed out by a yellow, Malukas finished a strong fourth on Sunday (April 2).
“Our [car] was on fire,” Malukas told Frontstretch on pit road after Sunday’s PPG 375. “[The car] was so quick. We definitely had some bumps along the way and had to make some setup changes. The wind picked up, and with the way that the tires were, we had some close calls.
In addition to the wind kicking up during the event, Sunday’s race saw the cars change their handling characteristics constantly. That was simply another aspect that Malukas had to keep up with.
“The [car] was changing in every corner. Every single move you made, the car changed immediately,” Malukas stated. “You’re going inside and outside of clean air and dirty air, so you had no idea what the car needed. I felt like I was playing a video game on a controller.
Despite his strong run, he is not particularly comfortable with the idea of being considered a “veteran.” He voiced that sentiment Friday afternoon.
“Now that I’m not a rookie anymore, INDYCAR doesn’t want you to test [that much] anymore,” Malukas told Frontstretch Friday. “It’s a bit weird after one season to be the veteran of the group.”
INDYCAR rules state that rookies, such as Malukas’ teammate Sting Ray Robb, get additional testing time. Sophomore drivers like Malukas do not. As a result, Malukas was able to take advantage of the data generated by Robb a couple of weeks ago during the rookie test.
Malukas started ninth and kept himself in the hunt for much of the day. This was extremely critical during the 120-lap segment between the first and second yellows. At that time, Josef Newgarden and Pato O’Ward drove away from the field and put all but a couple of drivers a lap down.
When Felix Rosenqvist crashed, both O’Ward and Newgarden pitted. That allowed six drivers to take the wavearound and get back on the lead lap. Malukas was the last driver in that group.
Unlike the others that received the pass back onto the lead lap, Malukas did not pit and would have been forced to pit under green had Robb not wrecked on lap 210 to bring out another yellow.
Fueled up to go to the finish, Malukas was fast enough to try to take the battle to O’Ward, Newgarden, Scott Dixon, Romain Grosjean and Alex Palou. The final 31 laps of the race were marked by side-by-side battles. Malukas spent much of that time on the outside.
The fourth-place finish means that after two races, Malukas is sixth in points, ahead of drivers such as Scott McLaughlin, Will Power and Alexander Rossi. He’s hoping to keep this momentum going in two weeks in Long Beach.
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.
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