Malukas takes stunning win, Indy Lights leads in points
David Malukas, driving the Chicago, Illinois-based HMD Motorsports family team, came from behind tonight to sweep the St. Louis Cooper Tires Indy Lights Oval Challenge double at the World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois. Just a month before his 20th birthday, Malukas battled spectacularly ahead of poleman Kyle Kirkwood (Andretti Autosport) of Jupiter, Fla. To claim his sixth win of the season and regain the championship lead.
Kirkwood finished second for the second race in a row, but with extra points awarded in the only two oval races of the season, he now follows Malukas by just three points with six races remaining. At stake is a purse worth nearly $ 1.3 million to secure entry into a minimum of three NTT IndyCar Series races in 2022.
“What an incredible race! He’s the happiest I’ve ever been, I’ve worked so hard for this one, ”Malukas said. “A big thank you to the team, they gave me an incredible car. I can finally put Indy’s accident behind me, we got over that. We have proven ourselves. The car was amazing from start to finish, right on track. I didn’t have my radio on for the first half of the race so I took it a bit slow because I didn’t know when it would end – and just when I was ready to pounce the yellow came out ! But I knew from that experience where to do it, and we had an amazing side-to-side race. We knew we had to work the high line so we adjusted the settings for that during the warm-up so I knew the line and I knew I could trust the car and Kyle. I kept screaming in the car, it was so cool!
Seattle, Washington-based Dane Benjamin Pedersen finished third for the second consecutive race for Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports, moving him from seventh to fourth on the points table.
Kirkwood earned his fourth Cooper Tires Pole Award of the season posting the fastest in each driver’s second and final qualifying lap on Friday, and made the most of it by taking the lead at the start. Malukas stayed on his heels with Pedersen and teammate Linus Lundqvist of Stockholm, Sweden, both passing third-place qualifier Danial Frost (Andretti Autosport) of Singapore for third and fourth in the first round.
The three leaders remained virtually tied for the first 30 laps, with Lundqvist hanging on as best he could – a remarkable effort considering he was driving the car previously used this season by Nikita Lastochkin after his Dallara IL-15 regular was badly damaged in an accident on Friday.
Concerns about excessive tire wear led officials to issue a guideline for today’s race that required a mandatory change of both tires on the right side halfway through the scheduled 70 laps. In addition, the teams had to use a lighter fuel load, which would be replenished halfway through.
It’s time for the mandatory pitstop! ⏱️
The teams will now refuel in addition to changing the tires on the right side, which represents a stop of about 10 minutes.
– Indy Lights (@IndyLights) August 21, 2021
With the fuel and tire stops completed in red flag conditions, the race resumed in single file with Kirkwood still leading Malukas, Pedersen, Lundqvist, Frost and Italian-Canadian Devlin DeFrancesco (Andretti Steinbrenner Racing).
After a few more laps under the green flag, Malukas saw his opportunity and took a high line in the first corner to slip alongside Kirkwood. The two title-holders continued to run wheel to wheel for most of the next three laps before Malukas could finally gain a lead on lap 41 as they accelerated into Turn 3. The job was done. In a beautiful style.
Kirkwood remained virtually glued to Malukas’ rear wing for the next 15 laps before Malukas was finally able to find some breathing room. Shortly after, the yellow flags were waved again following reports of a tire problem for Frost, who had headed for the pit lane shortly after being passed by teammate DeFrancesco. This turned out to be the only event, but once again race officials were careful to display the checkered flag after 62 laps, eight laps shorter than the planned distance.
“There is a great level of respect between David and me – and really, among all the riders on the Indy Road,” Kirkwood said. “You have to give in on an oval. When we were side by side he kept running outside and slowly attacked me, so hats off to him, it was fun. It had been a long time since I had been so close. Their cars were phenomenal – we were strong, but not strong enough, so we are very happy to come away with two second places.
DeFrancesco recorded another top five, followed by Australian Alex Peroni, who had another great race for Team Carlin, while Robert Megennis of Andretti Autosport, New York, NY, won the Tilton Hard Charger. Award after moving from 12th to 7th place. .
The thrilling Indy Lights title race presented by Cooper Tires will continue with a west coast swing to the Portland International Raceway in Portland, Ore. On September 11-12, followed by two more races on September 18-19 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, in Monterey, California
Provisional championship points after 14 of 20 races:
1. David Malukas, 371
2. Kyle Kirkwood, 368
3. Linus Lundqvist, 312
4. Benjamin Pedersen, 245
5. Devlin DeFrancesco, 245
6. Danial Frost, 244
7. Toby Sowery, 236
8. Alex Peroni, 228
9. Robert Megennis, 225
10. Sting Ray Robb, 169