INDIANAPOLIS — The last time we were at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, some controversy was being discussed as despite being the top rookie to cross the famed yard of bricks first on May 29 for the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500, Jimmie Johnson NOT David Malukas was named Rookie of the Year honors.
Malukas finished 16th that day. Johnson in 28th after a Lap 193 crash. On a day that saw Johnson, Romain Grosjean (31st) and Callum Ilott (32nd) all crash as rookies, Malukas quietly shined just as he did all month.
However, he didn’t take home top rookie honors.
Now we come back for Saturday’s Gallagher Grand Prix (12 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network) on the 2.439-mile IMS road course with Malukas ascending towards the top rookie honors on the season.
Johnson and Grosjean aren’t eligible for this distinction since they ran part time last year. Malukas is. He’s only 12 races into his career and has accumulated 2 top 10’s and 4 laps led. Both top 10’s came in the last 4 races. On top of that, he has 3 top 8 qualifying efforts in the last 4 tries including 4 in the last 6 races.
That’s why he’s catching fellow first timer Christian Lundgaard who’s made one more start than Malukas. That’s because Lundgaard made his series debut right here on this very race weekend last year. He qualified an impressive 4th that day.
He has 4 top 10’s this season and 4 top 11’s in his last 5 tries. The thing is, he only leads Malukas by 4 points coming into this weekend. With 5 races remaining, who wins out?
It will be a fierce battle as each are starting to figure this out. Malukas was 11th in Belle Isle compared to Lundgaard being 14th. For Road America, it was Lundgaard in 10th and Malukas in 16th. For Mid-Ohio, it was Malukas in 9th and Lundgaard 11th. At Toronto it was 8th for Lundgaard and 12th for Malukas.
At Iowa, Lundgaard was 10th and 26th respectively while Malukas was 14th and 8th himself.
This track both are familiar with now. Lundgaard qualified 8th and finished 9th back in May. Malukas finished 12th.
You can’t count out Callum Ilott either. While he’s pretty far back in points right now to them, he does have 3 top 12 finishes in his last 5 starts. He qualified 7th and finished 8th here in May and has made it out of the first round in qualifying on natural road courses in all 4 tries.