David Malukas is reassessing his goals for the remainder of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season. He’s setting his sights higher.
The 17-year-old Chicagoan has put together respectable numbers in his maiden campaign on the top rung of the Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, the development ladder sanctioned by INDYCAR. Through the opening four races, he has scored three finishes of fourth place or better, including a third-place result at the second race of the Circuit of The Americas doubleheader last month.
Those efforts have been enhanced by BN Racing teammate Toby Sowery, who debuted with a pair of podium finishes in the season-opening weekend at St. Petersburg, Florida, and followed it with identical sixth-place results at COTA. Indy Lights has been idle since the COTA weekend but returns to action with a pair of races at the INDYCAR Grand Prix weekend May 9-11 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Heading into this year, Malukas’ expectations leaned toward conservative in the No. 79 Dallara IL-15, hoping to battle for an occasional podium as a rookie in the highly competitive series. After seeing how quickly the team has adapted, Malukas believes the fight can be brought every weekend.
“Going against big teams – Andretti (Autosport), Juncos (Racing), Belardi (Auto Racing) – these are big names in the books,” Malukas said. “And trying to go against them, our expectations were very level, maybe just try to stay up and stay with them with the times. But after any of these tests and these first two race (weekends), it seems like our expectations are definitely trying to be up more towards the podiums now.
“It's been nonstop push ever since the season started. I don't think it's ever going to stop. It's been stressful, sure, but we're getting something out of it, so it's good.”
Every facet of owner Bryn Nuttal’s team has been paramount to the growth to this point. Unfortunately, the major obstacle moving forward could be the budget to continue running Sowery for the full season. Malukas stressed the importance of having a teammate to compare data and setups, but with Sowery, whose BN Racing entry is run in conjunction with Team Pelfrey, in particular.
“Toby here and being a very insane (good) driver – very, very professional, like driving-wise, racing-wise, he's just so smart – I've never seen much like it,” Malukas said.
“Having him on my side helping me, it's made a big improvement. I think even from just (St. Petersburg) to now … I've been watching videos of him and me and trying to compare and watching the recaps of the races to try to learn as much as possible, just so I can be up with the same level as these other drivers.”
With that in mind, Malukas is doing all he can to get ready for the 14-turn, 2.439-mile IMS road course, after taking care of schoolwork, of course.
“I have a (racing) simulator at home,” he said. “When I get bored and finish all my homework, I just keep going until either the PC shuts down or I am just dripping in sweat. I just keep going and do as much laps as possible because I want to be prepared for the next race.”
Track activity for all three Road to Indy levels on the IMS road course begins Thursday, May 9 with testing the and first practice sessions of the weekend. The first Indy Lights race begins at 1:30 p.m. ET Friday, May 10, with the second race at 1:15 p.m. Saturday, May 11. Both races stream live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold.