IndyCar rookie David Malukas impresses with a career-best second: ‘That kid is hungry’

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MADISON, Illinois — Josef Newgarden saw the checkered flag out his windshield while hard-charging IndyCar rookie David Malukas sprinted closer and closer into his rearview mirror at the Gateway track.

The Dale Coyne Racing driver was coming fast for the leaders, seemingly out of nowhere, late Saturday night after a long rain delay and a strung-out race at World Wide Technology Raceway.

The 20-year-old was flying and darted outside and around Scott McLaughlin for second. Then he set his sights over the final lap on Newgarden, the two-time IndyCar champion so far unable to take control of the championship race.

Newgarden thought, “Wow, that kid is hungry.’ ”

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

He’s still learning oval racing, even though his results show he’s a quick study. His 16th-place finish in the Indianapolis 500 was his lowest of the five ovals on the schedule; his second-place finish Saturday night was the best of his maiden IndyCar season and his first career podium.

And yet he’s left to wonder if a rookie mistake cost him a chance at running down Newgarden for the win at Gateway.

On fresh tires for the final run of the night, Malukas waited until two laps to go to experiment with the upper groove at Gateway. His car like a rocket ship in the top lane, he sailed past McLaughlin on the outside.

Though he ran out of time to catch Newgarden, Malukas was closing in quickly when Newgarden took his series-best fifth win of the season.

What took him so long to try the outside lane?

“It was a bit unfortunate I did it so late. But I guess rookie season, rookie stuff,” Malukas said. “I’m going to put it in the back of my brain and remember it for next time.”

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

Either way, second place was just as good as the win on Saturday night for Malukas. He even got to celebrate with champagne when Newgarden graciously let the underage Malukas spray the real stuff instead of the grape juice he’d been given.

“Why didn’t they give me the real stuff? That’s not fun,” Malukas said. “Maybe I can just tell them I’ll close my mouth, I don’t know.”

Just three months ago he was smarting from losing Indianapolis 500 top rookie honors to Jimmie Johnson, who finished the race below Malukas but was rewarded for both an eye-popping speed show in qualifying and his ambassadorship for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

Malukas supporters were outraged and, after posting his own 200-plus mph marks in practice, as well as actually finishing highest among the Indy 500 rookies, Malukas himself wondered how he lost out on top rookie to 46-year-old Johnson.

Once the drama faded from social media, Malukas went back to big runs for tiny Dale Coyne Racing.

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

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

Newgarden is three points behind Team Penske teammate Will Power with two races remaining, yet he didn’t worry about the potential risks of racing a rookie with Saturday night’s win on the line.

“When you see rookies, I think you definitely are a bit more cautious or reserved, or at least you’re second-guessing what you think you should be doing,” Newgarden said. “I would give Malukas a lot of respect. He’s probably been one of the cleanest rookies I’ve ever seen. He’s been almost too respectful.”

Malukas acknowledged both getting out of the way of Penske cars during practice and also getting a little starry-eyed when he found himself racing Newgarden and McLaughlin.

His engineer radioed that Malukas was about to get sight of the race leaders and then he caught a glimpse of them sailing through Turns 1 and 2. It took a moment for him to realize that “Oh, my God, they’re Penskes. I’m going behind Penskes right now. This is crazy.’ ”

Malukas rooted for Team Penske as a kid and says he’s stayed out of their way when he made it to IndyCar this season: “Every time through practice, every time they passed me, I always let them by. Man,” he said.

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

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

2023 MotoGP schedule announced, highlighted by trips to India and Kazakhstan

2023 MotoGP schedule
Hasan Bratic / Getty Images
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A new opening venue and the addition of two Grands Prix in India and Kazakhstan will highlight the 2023 MotoGP schedule.

The 2023 MotoGP season will kick off March 24th with the opening round in Portugal instead of the typical trip to Qatar. Work on the Losail International Circuit pushed their date back to the penultimate weekend after the series finishes a series of races around the Pacific Rim.

Following Portugal, MotoGP heads to Argentina and the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas for their only visit to the United States before heading back to Europe for most of the next 10 rounds.

Interrupting the long European stint will be the series’ first visit to the Sokol International Circuit in Kazakhstan on July 7, 2023. The traditional summer break will be three weeks and then MotoGP heads to England for the British GP in August.

After three more European rounds at Austria, Catalunya and San Marino, the second new date on the calendar will come on the 16-turn, Buddh International Circuit for a September 24 race date. Both the India and Kazakhstan races are subject to homologation and approval by the circuit.

The next six races will be held in Asia and Oceania before Qatar and Valencia close out the schedule.

“We’re very proud to announce that Buddh International Circuit will be on the 2023 calendar,” said Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna, which manages the series. “We have a lot of fans in India and we’re excited to be able to bring the sport to them.

“India is also a key market for the motorcycle industry and therefore, by extension, for MotoGP as the pinnacle of the two-wheeled world. We very much look forward to racing at Buddh International Circuit and can’t wait to welcome the fans through the gates to see this incredible sport in person.”

One of two new races announced for 2022, in Finland, did not materialize this season and has not been added to the 2023 MotoGP schedule. In addition, the Aragon GP has been removed to keep the rounds at 21.

2023 Provisional Schedule

Portugal GP, Algarve, March 26
Argentina GP, Termas de Río Hondo, April 2
American GP, Circuit of the Americas, April 16
Spanish GP, Jerez, April 30
French GP, Le Mans, May 14
Italian GP, Mugello, June 11
German GP, Sachsenring, June 18
Dutch GP, Assen, June 25
Kazakhstan GP, Sokol, July 9 *
British GP, Silverstone, August 6
Austrian GP, Red Bull Ring, August 20
Catalan GP, Catalunya, September 3
San Marino GP, Misano, September 10
Indian GP, Buddh, September 24 *
Japanese GP, Motegi, October 1
Indonesia GP, Mandalika Street Circuit, October 15
Australian GP, Philip Island, October 22
Thailand GP, Chang International Circuit, October 29
Malaysian GP, Sepang, November 12
Qatar GP, Losail International Circuit, November 19
Valencia GP, Ricardo Tormo, November 26

* subject to approval