Circuit of The Americas played host to a happy podium visitor as young Indy Lights driver David Malukas earned a third-place result for the BN Motorsports team in the second race.
A three-time winner last season in Pro Mazda (pictured above), the 17-year-old Chicago native made the leap to Indy Lights with a modest program — one that’s dwarfed by the Andretti Autosports and Belardi Racings — which made the podium a meaningful outcome so early in the season. Including a pair of fourths from the season opener in St. Petersburg, Malukas and BN have been a welcome surprise to start the 2019 championship.
On a tight budget, Malukas is tasked with challenging for wins without making costly mistakes. It makes for an interesting set of goals to balance for a rookie in IndyCar’s top training series.
“Obviously this year my main goal was not to crash and do anything stupid,” Malukas told RACER after chasing Andretti’s Oliver Askew and Robert Megennis home Sunday at COTA. “And also I came from racing in Europe, and in Europe it is very aggressive. I’d get hot-headed and just as soon as I saw something, I’d go for it, but now I’m making sure I see the move when it’s correct.”
Considering how far he’s come since joining the Road to Indy in 2017, there’s a sense that with more time and mileage — and once he graduates from high school — Malukas could be one to watch as IndyCar beckons. To make the jump possible, winning the Indy Lights championship and making use of the seven-figure advancement prize is his first priority, and to get there, taking the long view is necessary.
“The big thing is, if you win a championship in Europe you get a high-five and they say, ‘Thanks and see you next year,’ and that’s it,” he said with a smile. “Here, if I win Indy Lights, you get $1.2 million; it’s a big difference. So obviously now your whole mindset changes, you’re like, ‘OK, I’m in third place, I might have the speed to get in second or first but I’m in third place, this is a good position and if I don’t do anything risky I’ll get a good amount of points here and then go it for the next race.’
“So obviously everything — your persona, your mind, everything — changes to be more calm and think about the championship picture instead of crashing yourself out with risky moves.”
Malukas will need more than the prodigious talent he owns to topple Indy Lights’ biggest teams. He says being positioned as an actual David against a few Goliaths could actually work to his benefit if people take notice of BN Racing’s performances as the series’ No. 1 underdog.
“Like the saying goes, ‘started from the bottom, now we’re here,’” Malukas added, quoting the rapper Drake. “It’s been a long ride, very stressful, to be fair. But the past three years, the team is just everything I’ve ever wanted. And, starting as an underdog, we don’t really have much pressure and we can focus on the car and make changes.
“We might not look the best on the grid, we might not have the best equipment, we don’t have a lot of crew members, but at least we’re showing some speed and making people recognize we’re here. So I’m really happy with how the team is doing and, obviously, I wouldn’t be anywhere without them.”