When BN Racing finally secured its breakthrough Mazda Road to Indy win last weekend at Road America – with an impressive 1-2 sweep in the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires openers – the result was so sweet that the team repeated it the next day.
Just 13 months after its MRTI debut, BN Racing swept both Pro Mazda races at Road America, with David Malukas winning ahead of teammate Toby Sowery, who was making his own MRTI debut.
Malukas’ victories in the No. 79 Mazda/Tatuus PM-18 were pure retribution for the Chicago native after a spin last year in the final turn at Road America denied him a certain second-place finish in a Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda race.
“From the most embarrassing moment to the best!” Malukas said after driving to the Pro Mazda win on June 22 – the first MRTI victory for the team and him.
“It’s a good feeling. I could see the (team) manager; he’s been stressing out. It’s still a new team, it’s only been a year so it’s kind of been chaotic every single race and every time we learn something new. We’re always making mistakes and that’s just the consequences of being a new team.”
Mistakes Malukas alluded to include the spin at Road America and crashing out of two possible podium positions at Toronto last year in USF2000 and a Pro Mazda incident this year with Harrison Scott at Lucas Oil Raceway during the Freedom 90. Still, the Chicago-based squad persevered and it paid off at the track the team calls home since it’s only a couple hours away.
Team manager Bryn Nuttall admitted to frustrations on the way to getting the first win, but knew the potential was there as evidenced by Malukas posting five top-10 finishes in nine USF2000 starts in 2017. Expanding into Pro Mazda – the middle rung of the MRTI development ladder sanctioned by INDYCAR – gave the team more opportunities to collect that elusive first win since it continues to operate a two-car USF2000 effort as well.
“To me, it’s been a long time coming,” Nuttall said. “Even though we’re still a new team, we’ve had so many near-misses. We’ve had seconds, thirds, fourths, poles, fastest laps. We’ve had crashes, we’ve literally had the whole box of treats apart from a race win. We were getting not desperate, but we were like, ‘Is it ever going to come?’
“We’ve just been plugging away, doing the same thing, just believing that if the stars aligned that we would get a result. All the stars aligned this weekend and we dominated – double poles, double 1-2 (finish) – so for me, (I’m) absolutely ecstatic.”
Sowery temporarily left his sports car driving duties when a vacancy opened for the weekend with BN Racing. Drawing upon USF2000 race experience for Team BENIK last year at Barber Motorsports Park, Sowery clocked the fastest lap of the first race at Road America and embraced his part in the results.
“Obviously, (I’m) English so it’s nice to get the Brits back up on top,” said Sowery, a native of Melbourn, England. “But everyone’s done a fantastic job and the team deserves all that’s happened this weekend.”
BN Racing added a podium finish in USF2000 competition at Road America as well when Keith Donegan, in his first race with the team, placed third in the first race of the weekend.
“We've had some difficult races recently,” Nuttall said, “but to bounce back like this in both categories truly shows what we can do. David was exceptional and finally got the win he deserved."
Malukas’ twin victories moved him fourth in the Pro Mazda standings, 58 points behind leader Parker Thompson of Exclusive Autosport. The next Pro Mazda competition is July 13-15 on the streets of Toronto. All three MRTI levels – Pro Mazda, USF2000 and Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires – will contest doubleheader race weekends.