IndyCar rookie David Malukas impresses with a career-best second place: “The kid’s hungry”

MADISON, Ill. – Josef Newgarden saw the checkered flag out of his windshield as die-hard IndyCar rookie David Malukas sprinted closer and closer into his rearview mirror on the Gateway track.

The Dale Coyne Racing driver quickly made his way to the front seemingly out of nowhere late Saturday night after a long rain delay and long race at World Wide Technology Raceway.

The 20-year-old flew and shot outside and to Scott McLaughlin for second. Then, on the final lap, he took aim at Newgarden, the two-time IndyCar champion who has so far been unable to control championship racing.

Newgarden thought, “Wow, the kid is hungry.” ”

Unfortunately, Malukas ran out of time on the 1.25-mile oval outside of St. Louis. He picked up McLaughlin, and if there had been one more lap, Malukas might have claimed his first IndyCar win.

He’s still learning oval racing, although his results show he’s a fast learner. His 16th place finish at the Indianapolis 500 was his lowest of the five ovals on the schedule; His second place finish on Saturday night was the best of his first IndyCar season and his first career podium.

And yet he wonders if a rookie mistake cost him an opportunity Newgarden to run down to victory at Gateway.

On fresh tires for the final run of the night, Malukas waited two laps to experiment with the top groove at Gateway. His car rocketing into the top lane, he sailed past McLaughlin on the outside.

Though he didn’t have time to catch NewgardenMalukas was fast approaching as Newgarden claimed his consecutive fifth win of the season.

Why did it take him so long to try it on the wing?

“It was a bit unfortunate that I did it so late. But I think rookie season, rookie stuff,” Malukas said. “I’ll put it in the back of my mind and remember it for next time.”

It wasn’t his only mistake that night: Malukas was scolded by McLaughlin for mispronouncing his last name (using a soft “h” instead of a hard “h”).

Either way, second place for Malukas was as good as Saturday night’s win. He even got to celebrate with champagne when Newgarden mercifully allowed the underage Malukas to spray the real stuff instead of the grape juice he was given.

“Why didn’t they give me the real stuff? It’s no fun,” said Malukas. “Maybe I can just tell them I’ll shut up, I don’t know.”

Just three months ago he was saddened by losing the Indianapolis 500 top rookie honors to Jimmie Johnson, who finished under Malukas but for both a stunning show of speed in qualifying and his ambassadorship for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” was rewarded.

Malukas’ supporters were outraged and after setting his own 200-plus mile marks in practice and even finishing as the highest ranked Indy 500 rookie, Malukas wondered himself how he could hold the top rookie to 46th place -year-old Johnson had lost.

As the drama faded from social media, Malukas returned to big runs for tiny Dale Coyne Racing.

He finished eighth in the second race of the Iowa doubleheader last month and is 16th overall, ahead of Indianapolis 500 winners Helio Castroneves and his teammate Takuma Sato, as well as the rest of the rookie class.

Newgarden heaped praise on Malukas after the race, saying Malukas, a Lithuanian-American from the Chicago area, could probably get a little more aggressive.

new garden is three points behind his Penske teammate Will Power with two races to gobut he wasn’t worried about the potential risks of driving a rookie when victory is at stake on Saturday night.

“When you see newcomers, I think you’re definitely a bit more cautious or cautious, or at least considering what you think you should be doing,” Newgarden said. “I would give Malukas a lot of respect. He was probably one of the cleanest freshmen I’ve ever seen. He was almost too respectful.”

Malukas admitted he both avoided Penske cars during practice and got a little starry-eyed when he faced off against Newgarden and McLaughlin.

His engineer radioed that Malukas was about to sight the leaders of the race and then he caught a glimpse of them sailing through Turns 1 and 2. It took him a moment to realize, “Oh my god, those are Penskes. I’m walking behind Penskes now. That’s crazy.’ ”

Rooted for Team Penske as a kid, Malukas says he avoided them when he made it to IndyCar this season: “Every time in practice, every time they passed me, I got them always passed. man,” he said.

And so he had to collect himself as he pursued the duo.

“I tried so hard not to get nervous. I mean, I was nervous, but I tried so hard not to get overwrought and do something stupid,” Malukas said. “It’s definitely intimidating to have two Penskes in front of you.”

IndyCar rookie David Malukas impresses with a career-best second place: “The kid’s hungry” originally appeared on NBCSports.com

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