While Josef Newgarden came away from IndyCar’s annual visit to WWTR with the win – again – on Saturday evening, the swashbuckling final stint from Dale Coyne Racing’s David Maukas arguably stole the show.
Lining up fifth for the restart with 42 laps to go after a two-hour rain delay, Malukas made full use of fresh tires to pass Will Power and Pato O’Ward to get himself up to third, and then pinched second from Scott McLaughlin with a superb move on the final lap.
“Once I got around Pato – who did a very good job defending, very tough to get around him — I think it was [the lapped car of Ed] Carpenter who ended up letting me by, which was very nice of him,” Malukas said. “At that moment, our car was very quick. We got around Pato. The car was, like, very good. As soon as we went out, I knew it was going to be very good and we’d have a chance to catch them. Once I got within I’d say, like, a second or two, that’s when it was tough to get the last bit. Thankfully the lapped traffic came; that’s when I was able to get really close and personal.
“We knew from practice yesterday the cooler the track got, the better our car ended up being compared to the others around us. We knew we had a good car going into it. I knew I had a chance.
“I was trying so hard. [The other drivers] know how to do this — blocking my line and stuff. Man, this is so hard. But Pancho (Carter, Malukas’s spotter) said, ‘Try going wide in [Turns 1 and 2, 3 and 4].’ I just said, ‘You know, two to go, let’s try it.’ It worked very well. I had that bit of clean air on the front right wing; I was able to get a run. Because the track was so much quicker with it being so much later, I hit the limiter in sixth gear. I couldn’t get a tow or suck on [McLaughlin]. We had to go two-wide in [Turns 1 and 2]. Scary going wide there. Definitely getting some loose ends.”
Coming into the weekend, Malukas’s best finish had been eighth in the second half of the Iowa doubleheader. The 20-year-old said that the experience of battling a pair of Penske cars to earn a first podium while racing for a team that is focused on making the most of finite resources will stay with him for a long time.
“It means so much,” he said.” From the start of this season…[I] started off rough, making a lot of rookie mistakes, but I kept on learning. I knew the car was getting so good, the team was doing such a good job to get the connection and chemistry on what we needed, what I wanted. It was going so well. I knew the car deserved a podium.
“It feels so good to finally get one with the three races left in the season. I’m through the roof.”