While Josef Newgarden walked away from IndyCar’s annual visit to WWTR with a win – again – on Saturday night, Dale Coyne Racing’s David Maukas’ dramatic final stay may have stolen the show.
Starting fifth for the restart with 42 laps to go after a two-hour rain delay, Malukas took full advantage of the new tires to get past Will Power and Pat O’Ward for third, before pushing back second place from Scott McLaughlin with a fine move on the last circle.
“Once I got past Pat who defended his work very well, it’s very hard to get past him, I think it was [the lapped car of Ed] Carpenter, who ended up letting me pass, which was very nice of him,” said Malyukas. “At that moment our car was very fast. We bypassed Pato. The car was, like, very good. As soon as we got out, I knew that everything was going to be very good and that we would have a chance to catch them. Once I got inside, I’d say a second or two, then it was hard to get the last part. Fortunately, the traffic was covered; then I was able to get really up close and personal.
“We knew from yesterday’s practice that the colder the track got, the better our car was compared to the others around us. We knew we had a good car. I knew I had a chance.
“I tried so hard. [The other drivers] know how to do it – blocking my line and stuff. Man, it’s so hard. But Pancho (Carter, the Malukus watcher) said, “Try to go wide [Turns 1 and 2, 3 and 4].’ I just said, “You know, there’s two left, let’s try.” It worked very well. I had that bit of clean air on the front right fender; I was able to run. Since the track was much faster and much later, I hit the limiter in sixth gear. I could not reach or suck [McLaughlin]. We had to go together [Turns 1 and 2]. It’s scary to go wide there. Definitely getting some loose ends.”
On the weekend, Moluccas’ best finish was an eighth-place finish in the second half of a doubleheader at Iowa. The 20-year-old said the experience of battling a pair of Penske cars to earn his first podium while racing for a team focused on making the most of limited resources will stay with him for a long time.
“It means so much,” he said. Since the beginning of this season…[I] started off hard, made a lot of rookie mistakes, but I kept learning. I knew the car was getting so good, the team was doing such a good job of getting the connection and the chemistry in what we needed, what I wanted. Everything was going so well. I knew the car deserved a podium.
“It feels so good to finally get one with three races left in the season. I’m through the roof.”