Tuesday, March 1, 2022

INDYCAR: Marbles end David Malukas’ series debut prematurely


by William Soquet
LASTCAR.info Guest Contributor

David Malukas finished last for the first time in his NTT IndyCar Series career in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg when his #18 HMD Trucking Honda retired with crash damage after completing 23 of the 100 laps.

The finish came in Malukas’ series debut.

David Malukas is the son of two Lithuanian immigrants, Henry and Daiva. Henry held racing as a passion since childhood, and kept it up after moving to America and founding HMD Trucking in the Chicago area. That passion carried over to his son, who like many open-wheel juniors, started in the karting ranks. David took a quick stop in Europe, spending the 2016-17 seasons in Formula 4, before returning to America to embark on the Road to Indy ladder.

Racing under a team headed by his father, David scored a 4th-place finish in the 2018 Pro Mazda season before moving up to Indy Lights in 2019. With Indy Lights cancelled in 2020, Malukas raced to two race wins and a runner-up championship finish in the Formula Regional Americas championship. Returning to Lights in 2021, he won seven races only to be bested by phenom Kyle Kirkwood, who won ten. Malukas still finished as a strong second place in the championship. It was enough to land him the seat formerly occupied by Romain Grosjean at Dale Coyne Racing for the 2022 IndyCar season; Henry also came aboard in an ownership capacity, replacing the departing Jimmy Vasser and James Sullivan.

St. Pete featured an entry list busy with changes following the silly season: Takuma Sato joined Malukas at Dale Coyne Racing; Grosjean and Devlin DeFrancesco stepped into new rides at Andretti Autosport. Christian Lundgaard and Jack Harvey migrated to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing; Simon Pagenaud took Harvey’s spot at Meyer Shank Racing. Kirkwood and Tatianna Calderon brought fresh faces to A.J. Foyt Racing; Calum Ilott and Conor Daly geared up for their first full seasons with Juncos Hollinger Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing, respectively.

First practice saw an interesting shuffle of names at the top and the bottom; Grosjean took full advantage of his new ride and paced the field. Calderon, as part of her first-ever IndyCar race weekend, was the last car on the timing charts, a little over two and a half seconds back. Malukas, also in his first race weekend in the IndyCar paddock, was tenth on the charts, only a half a second off pace. In second practice, Scott McLaughlin broke the one-minute mark, becoming the first driver ever to do so. Calderon was again about two and a half seconds behind, while Malukas slid to 17th on the charts, clocking in at a minute and a half-second. Qualifying was much of the same story: McLaughlin again set a track record, while Malukas slipped to 24th on the charts, ahead of only 25th-place Calderon and last-place Jimmie Johnson.

At the start of the race, Johnson and Calderon remained even through the first set of corners, but Johnson found his way past both Calderon and Malukas before the end of the first lap. Calderon gradually lost pace with the rest of the drivers, falling four seconds back of Johnson in the early goings. Malukas held steady in 24th, just ahead of Johnson. Jack Harvey led off the opening round of pit stops on Lap 7; his Honda machine held the last spot for eleven laps until Ilott assumed the position after his first pit stop. 

Malukas made his pit stop at about the same time as Ilott and was getting his car up to speed in the middle portions of the track when he got out of the groove in Turn 4, smacking into the outside wall, losing steering, and then careening off the inside wall before finally coming to a stop. The crash terminally damaged Malukas’ racecar, making him the first retiree of the 2022 IndyCar Series season.

Dalton Kellett, the lone veteran at AJ Foyt Racing this season, dropped out with gearbox issues after completing 62 laps and finished 25th. Calderon rounded out the Bottom Three as the last car running, three laps in arrears to race winner McLaughlin.

26) #18-David Malukas / 23 laps / crash
25) #4-Dalton Kellett / 62 laps / gearbox
24) #11-Tatianna Calderon / 97 laps / running

1st) Honda (1)

1st) Dale Coyne Racing (1)


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