Sooner or later, IndyCar fans are bound to take notice of the strength David Malukas has displayed on ovals. Will that carry over into the Indy 500?
A somewhat under-the-radar IndyCar driver is set to enter the 107th running of the Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with an average finish of 4.67 in his last three oval starts, including back-to-back finishes inside the top four in his last two.
He drives not for Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing, Arrow McLaren, or Andretti Autosport, the four teams that have combined to win every race since the start of last season, but for Dale Coyne Racing, through a partnership with his father’s HMD Motorsports organization.
That driver is David Malukas, or “Little Dave” as he has become known in the paddock. And it’s not as far-fetched as it might seem to suggest that he could knock off some of the sport’s Goliaths.
David Malukas has adapted quite well to the tracks on the IndyCar calendar with strictly left turns.
Yet he still doesn’t get nearly the level of respect or attention that others with similar results have gotten.
“Yeah, it’s still our second season, you know, so I understand the tag,” Malukas told Beyond the Flag. “We’ve been having a lot of good spells when it comes to oval racing, and we’ve been doing really good, and I don’t know, I just feel very comfortable.
“It kind of seems like I have this really good connection with ovals, coming from a good car, being comfortable with making moves, and just having a really good time.”
He was robbed of last year’s Rookie of the Year Award at the Indy 500, despite being the race’s highest rookie finisher. This came after he fared well in his series oval debut at Texas Motor Speedway, finishing on the lead lap in a race that saw almost two-thirds of the field fall behind at least one circuit.
At every oval track he has been to since, the highest finishing non-Penske, Ganassi, or McLaren driver in last year’s IndyCar oval standings has finished inside the top eight.
An eighth place effort at the Iowa Speedway short track led into an impressive runner-up finish at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, where he boldly passed Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin and likely had more than teammate Josef Newgarden, now a four-time Gateway winner, would have been able to handle, had the race gone two or three laps longer.
Then at Texas Motor Speedway earlier this season, he displayed a sense of calmness, maturity, and poise well beyond his years, placing fourth in a race dubbed by many as the series’ best since the final race at Auto Club Speedway in 2015, given the old school pack-style racing the track produced.
He knows that people are starting to take notice.
“I feel like all of that as a collective is just what kind of gives us those results,” Malukas explained. “But I’m really happy, of course, it feels great, and yeah, I don’t know, it kind of seems like I’m getting a little bit of like a tag, where it’s like a more of an oval specialist. But we have to work on trying to make sure we get that tag for all of the types of courses. That’s the goal.”
Malukas is set to start Sunday’s Indy 500 in 23rd place behind the wheel of his No. 18 Honda. A full starting lineup is available here.
His odds at DraftKings Sportsbook to win the race are +5000.
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NBC is set to broadcast the 107th running of the Indy 500 live from Indianapolis Motor Speedway beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, May 28. If you have yet to begin a free trial of FuboTV, don’t miss your chance to do so today!