David Malukas was giddy after getting his first taste of NTT IndyCar Series power and downforce on Monday. The Indy Lights championship runner-up from Illinois wrapped the test day at Barber Motorsports Park with the fastest lap posted in the morning session, and again in the afternoon when the best times were recorded.
His No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda was everything he’d hoped for, and more.
“Wow, just beautiful, I am in love!” Malukas told RACER. “It’s just a beautiful car. What a beast. I went out and was just shocked by the amount of grip and downforce that it has through these high-speed corners. I’m going through them, thinking that’s the limit, and then I’m like, ‘Oh, no, maybe I could go deeper.’ And I just kept going deeper and deeper. And it’s just holding and holding. I was like, ‘Damn, this thing just has an immense amount of grip.’
“The team at Dale Coyne Racing has been awesome. Everybody there is just so friendly. I already feel like I’m at home. They spoiled me. I mean, I got a water bottle, a fan, just all these little things. They told me they’re here for whatever I need, and it’s just so much for me. So yeah, I’m in love. It’s been a was a wonderful day.”
Malukas is the third Indy Lights graduate to comment in recent weeks on how the top step of the Road To Indy prepared him for a career in IndyCar.
“After a couple of laps, I honestly I felt at home after my first run,” he said. “Everything just felt like I’ve been doing it for such a long time, and it was just a really good feeling to have. I honestly do think Indy Lights is an amazing car to prepare you for IndyCar. It doesn’t drive the same. But if anything, I think the Indy Lights car is harder; it’s a harder learning curve. I think that it’s a good jump to have going into an IndyCar just because in Lights, for that thing to be quick, it’s got to be sideways 24/7.
“So, when you get into an IndyCar with more downforce and bigger tires, you don’t need to be sideways all the time. It really helps, I mean, we got down to our times pretty quick and we’re quickest on the day.”
Malukas has yet to be confirmed in the No. 18 Honda for 2022, but the 20-year-old is expected to continue with his home state team and prepare for his rookie campaign in the car formerly driven by Ed Jones. With Day 1 complete, Malukas can rest his mind — and worn muscles — until the next test with DCR arrives.
“Coming up to this test, I was dreaming about it every single night about how it’s going to end up,” he said. “By the end of it, I was just starting to lose hairs. I wanted to get going so bad so I could just stop overthinking. Then we go into the day and then have all these debriefs and the reports and plan before you get into the test, and I’m like, wow, this is really official!
“I did my first lap, I was like, ‘OK, this is, it’s still a car, it’s just a bit bigger and a lot better.’ So then that was it. And after my first run, I got the hang of it, I figured out you know, the whole plan to get into neutral and do pitstops and all that. We added some tires in front and behind me just to make the pit entry tighter for me to figure out for when this becomes the real deal. But everything was good. Now I need to go and sleep for, like, four days.”