Malukas happy after a “spicy” opening day of practice for the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500

INDIANAPOLIS — David Malukas’ Wednesday started off a little too “spicy” for his liking. The sophomore NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver was back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to attempt to make his second start in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. With having three six-hour practice sessions ahead this week, they figured they could take it a little easy in getting his No. 18 Dallara-Honda up to speed.

However, the car wasn’t necessarily to Malukas’ liking. In saying that, he still shot to the top half of the speed chart and spent most of the afternoon on the sun drenched opening day of practice, in the top five.

“For us it was a good day,” Malukas said. “We took it slow, and in the beginning we definitely started the setup off a little bit too spicy, as I was kind of saying. It was definitely very much on the oversteer side.”

MORE: Sato leads Day 1 of Indy 500 Practice, top 5 takeaways

So, back to Gasoline Alley they went to get it a little better dialed in. Malukas went even faster. The Illinois native turned the days 16th fastest speed in going 226.141 mph. The only reason he fell down the speed charts was due to a massive 18 car train of cars in Happy Hour that saw most of their times improve. Malukas was struggling with a new problem that he hopes to get rectified by the weekend.

“I was like, yeah, we need to bring it back a little bit, especially for the first day, and that’s exactly what we did,” Malukas continued. “We came back, did a set down, and then in the afternoon it was all about trying to race in traffic.

“We ended up getting to a point where we were very quick to getting I’d say about five car lengths back but just that last little bit we were struggling where drivers like (Scott) McLaughlin and Pato (O’Ward), I was just watching them and they were going inside and — they could do whatever they want. They’re going to be some drivers to watch, like very quick when it comes to racing.

“But yeah, and at the end there we were kind of struggling with making the tires last, so that’s going to be something we focus on tomorrow and then all eyes forward for qualifying.”

David Malukas practicing for the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Malukas knows what he wants in a car. He’s been great on ovals in his brief INDYCAR career. In what should have been last year’s Rookie of the Year, “Lil Dave” went out and finished second in Gateway last August, fourth at Texas last month and looks like a contender again this year at Indy.

“It was in Indy Lights when I realized I really started to enjoy ovals, but that was going to be my last year in Indy Lights,” he said. “Before that I actually really did not like ovals and really struggled with them and I just thought, this is just not for me. But it was Gateway 2021 in Indy Lights. Right after that weekend I kind of started to get an itch for ovals, and every oval I’ve done after that I’ve absolutely loved it and had a blast no matter where we finished.

“I don’t know what it is with ovals. I love them, and I feel like I connect very well, and of course it very highly depends on the Dale Coyne car. I feel like it gives me a lot of confidence and can show my true 110 percent of my potential that I can give to the car.

“I just love it. To me it just feels like a giant game of chess. You can play on the offensive, on the defensive, you can react to drivers’ mistakes, et cetera. I just love it.”

The confidence also comes from the fact that Dale Coyne has produced some good cars here as of late. Between Ed Jones’ third place finish in 2017, to Malukas and Takuma Sato thriving last year, it helps keep Malukas’ confidence brimming at the world’s greatest race course.

“From last season to this season, the car is still very good,” he says. “Straight off the bat, like I said, we were a bit on the spicy side so we couldn’t really push 100 percent because it was definitely a little bit on edge.

“For the next few days, it’s just going to be bringing that back a little bit to a point where we can give it 110 percent. It’s very good.

“The only thing that we seem to be struggling a little bit on is, like I said, with following and trying to make these tires last. But other than that, just when it comes to raw pace, we are very, very quick, and it feels good knowing with Dale and he gives a lot of advice, a lot of information, and also coming from Bourdais, there’s a few changes and things that he gave to the team that we might be trying in the next few days.”

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