David Malukas moved back atop the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires point standings with his third victory of the young season for HMD Motorsports. The teenager had to work hard for his laurels, though, as a late challenge from Toby Sowery (Juncos Racing) ended with the pair separated by just 0.0283s at the checkered flag on the Indianapolis Grand Prix road course. Alex Peroni (Carlin) and Kyle Kirkwood (Andretti Autosport) also were in close contention at the end of a thrilling 35-lap race.
Malukas was bound and determined to take advantage of his third Cooper Tires Pole Award of the year, which he earned in qualifying earlier this morning by just less than a tenth of a second over yesterday’s race winner, Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports stablemate Linus Lundqvist.
Malukas did so, narrowly, and his high spirits were further enhanced when Sowery found a way past Lundqvist on the second lap. Lundqvist had another scare just a couple of laps later when he locked up his brakes at Turn 1 and immediately had to concede two more positions to a fired-up Peroni, who enjoyed his best Indy Lights race to date, and Kirkwood, the former USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 champion who had scored his first Indy Lights victory last time out at St. Petersburg.
Sowery never allowed Malukas any real breathing space at the front of the field, and while Peroni and Kirkwood slipped away a little bit during the middle stages, they closed in again toward the finish to ensure a gripping four-car battle.
Malukas remained under intense pressure, especially with Sowery – and his other three rivals – all enjoying a little extra boost with their AER engines’ push-to-pass feature, which allowed them an extra 50 horsepower. The two fast friends thoroughly enjoyed their tussle, which saw Sowery squeeze alongside at Turn 1 on the final lap, only to be narrowly rebuffed. Undeterred, Sowery mounted one last challenge as they raced toward the finish line, with Malukas holding on by the narrowest of margins.
The four leaders all flashed underneath the waved checkered flags separated by just 1.1236s, with Kirkwood earning the Tilton Hard Charger Award after having started in the sixth position.
“The field was so close, so we knew this would be tough, especially once everything sorted out and Toby was in my rear-view mirror,” said Malkukas. “He’s like my brother and he’s really good at racing so I knew I was in for a ride! It helped to know his strategy, that he’s a late-braker, so I thought that if I could hold the corner exits, he couldn’t get a run.
“I didn’t know where he would try to make a run at the end so I just played the middle. I had a big slide in the last corner so he got closer, but that set up a stellar finish right on the bricks. Coming back into the pits, nearly crying, I looked up at the video screen and they were replaying it, and I thought – I need to hang that photo up on my wall!”
Lundqvist struggled in the closing stages after several more lock-ups before successfully holding on to fifth place despite the best efforts of Italian-Canadian Devlin DeFrancesco (Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport). Some way farther back, Andretti teammates Robert Megennis, from New York, N.Y., managed to squeeze past Singapore’s Danial Frost on the final lap for seventh.
The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires contingent will now enjoy a few weeks’ hiatus before convening again at The Raceway at Belle Isle Park in Detroit, Mich., on June 12-13.
Provisional championship points after 6 of 20 races:
1. David Malukas, 151
2. Linus Lundqvist, 140
3. Kyle Kirkwood, 124
4. Toby Sowery, 105
5. Alex Peroni, 101
6. Devlin DeFrancesco, 99
7. Danial Frost, 95
8. Benjamin Pedersen, 88
9. Robert Megennis, 83
10. Sting Ray Robb, 72