IndyCar: Rising star bets on himself in latest announcement

David Malukas, Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports, IndyCar - Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
David Malukas, Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports, IndyCar - Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

David Malukas confirmed that he will not be returning to Dale Coyne Racing for the 2024 IndyCar season, just days after saying he was leaning in that direction.

David Malukas entered the 2023 IndyCar season coming off of a rookie year with Dale Coyne Racing which saw him record three top 10 efforts and a podium finish en route to a 16th place finish in the championship standings, the exact stat line posted by 2021 champion Alex Palou in his rookie season with Dale Coyne’s organization back in 2020.

The start of the 2023 season suggested that he might be able to better that effort and bring stability to a team that has been lacking it since Sebastien Bourdais’ final victory in 2018.

Malukas scored two straight top 10 finishes, including a fourth place finish at Texas Motor Speedway, to start the 2023 season. But after a recent run of four straight DNFs, which saw him plummet to 19th in the championship standings, he publicly stated that he was likely going to be leaving the team at the end of the year.

The 21-year-old Chicago, Illinois native bounced back with a sixth place finish at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this past weekend. But he has since confirmed that he will not, in fact, be back with Dale Coyne Racing in 2024.

It’s a stark contrast to what we usually hear in silly season, when drivers respond with the typical “I’m just focused on the next race” one-liner when they have no interest in talking about their plans for the following year.

All things considered, David Malukas is making a gamble on himself. And it’s one that should benefit his IndyCar career long-term.

Whether or not Malukas continues to drive for his father’s HMD Motorsports team, which formed a partnership with Dale Coyne Racing ahead of the 2022 season, remains to be seen. Henry Malukas’ organization could stick with Dale Coyne Racing, start their own full-time IndyCar team, or potentially join another team, with or without David as their driver.

The question needs to be asked: is the move really a gamble for “Little Dave”, given that Dale Coyne Racing simply haven’t shown the progress he would have liked since his arrival last year?

Malukas is already drawing interest from top-tier teams around the paddock, as he should be. But there are no guarantees in IndyCar, especially when it comes to young drivers and contracts.

We have seen talented young drivers promised rides before and those rides fall through for one reason or another, and Malukas himself is technically still without a watertight deal for 2024 after the announcement that he will be leaving Dale Coyne Racing.

Andretti Autosport making a change is all but guaranteed at this point, and a move there would allow him to remain with Honda and join two other young stars of the series in Colton Herta and Kyle Kirkwood, presumably for a very long time.

Arrow McLaren have shown interest in seemingly every fast young driver under the sun since the start of last year, and Chip Ganassi Racing, also a Honda team, will need to fill as many as three open seats, which is nothing shy of insane when you consider their status as this year’s clear top team.

There is little doubt that Malukas will end up landing a better ride, given the fact that the three teams that make the most sense for him all have open seats for next year. Still, there are other drivers searching also, and nothing is set in stone.

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This type of confidence in himself and willingness to tell it like it is marks somewhat of a breath of fresh air in modern-day IndyCar. Let’s hope it pays off for the people’s 2022 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year.