Refreshed Malukas Eager To Start Second Career Chapter (2024)

The last time David Malukas was at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, he was competing in the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season finale for Dale Coyne Racing while also having an eye to the future by taking part in photo shoots donning papaya clothing as the newest Arrow McLaren driver for 2024.

As the series heads back to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, Malukas isn’t competing for either organization.

Malukas was named June 7 as the replacement for Tom Blomqvist in the No. 66 AutoNation/Arctic Wolf Honda for Meyer Shank Racing.

“It’s been an emotional rollercoaster,” Malukas said. “It’s been a character-building year, but now we’re back.”

After tearing tendons and dislocating his left wrist in a mountain bike accident in early February, Malukas missed events at St. Petersburg, The Thermal Club, Long Beach and Barber Motorsports Park. With a timeline of Malukas’ recovery being pushed further and further back, Arrow McLaren released Malukas on April 29.

Malukas said having the contract terminated removed stress because there no longer was a heavy push on making a specific timeline to return to the co*ckpit. Instead, his mind was in a different spot – what now?

He was able to lean for guidance on his parents’ journey from Lithuania to the United States in 1991, knowing limited English, to build the HMD trucking empire and using that success to run a successful INDY NXT by Firestone operation that has won the last two series championships. In between losing his McLaren ride and signing with MSR, Malukas took on a lighthearted, fun role working with the INDYCAR digital content team during the Month of May at Indianapolis.

“They were the ones helping me through it because they understand it very well, more than anybody,” Malukas said of his parents. “They kept pushing me, kept motivating me. We stayed with it. Did INDYCAR content for the Month of May. Smiled. I stayed positive, knew it was going to come.”

The opportunity with Meyer Shank Racing opened May 29 when the team moved on from sports car ace Blomqvist. Helio Castroneves, a part-owner of the team, drove the car in the last two races, the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, finishing 25th on June 2, and the XPEL Grand Prix at Road America on June 9 in a 19th-place effort.

Malukas took the reins in the Open Test on June 11 at the Milwaukee Mile, ending up an impressive eighth overall, and will stay in the seat for the remainder of the season.

With a fresh opportunity with MSR, Malukas said he has been overly cautious off track.

“I have driven safer than I ever have on the roads, walked safer and looked at everything, made sure I took my time,” he said. “I really needed to get back in this car.”

Malukas sped out of his pit box at Milwaukee with eager anticipation. In the first test session, Malukas was fifth among the 20 drivers with a top speed of 159.293 mph. That lap ended up eighth best on the day, with Malukas completing 111 laps.

“The hand feels perfectly fine,” Malukas said at Milwaukee. “What I did today helped a lot. In this off time, I’m still human at the end of the day. You still have those thoughts of: ‘I’ve been out of the seat for a long time, how is this the injury going to affect me? How’s the performance?’

“But it feels good to be back in the car, and the performance is there.”

The next progression is making seven left and four right hand turns around the 2.238-mile WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca road course, located in Monterey, California. Malukas admitted his wrist and hand will be put to the test, but that’s nothing compared to the test he endured to get to this point.

This entire team-switching scenario could end up being a blessing in disguise as Malukas said the combination of Michael Shank, Jim Meyer and Helio Castroneves as owners of MSR and how the team operates fits well for his style, as does veteran Felix Rosenqvist as a teammate.

“It’s really good the way it is all connected,” Malukas said. “With it being family-oriented and having good chemistry is something I’m used to, so it already feels like I’m at home.

“Having Felix and Helio, it’s a really good group of guys and a good trio for me because I’m only 22. I think it is the perfect environment for me.”

Malukas has the rare instance of testing the new hybrid unit for both manufacturers, taking part in hybrid testing in the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet before the injury and then at Milwaukee in the No. 66 Meyer Shank Racing Honda. Can that pose an advantage?

The advantage he may have is getting information from “the best Brazilians in racing” with Tony Kanaan mentoring Malukas while with Arrow McLaren and Castroneves serving that role at MSR.

With a second chance on racing in 2024, Malukas said the pressure to deliver is minimal.

Malukas’ first 34 races in this series were with Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports. He registered nine top-10 finishes, including a pair of podium finishes – a second in 2022, a third in 2023 – at World Wide Technology Raceway, and he finished fourth in the 2023 race at Texas Motor Speedway. All of those are oval tracks, and there are six such races left on this year’s schedule.

Refreshed Malukas Eager To Start Second Career Chapter (2024)
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