Catching Up With David Malukas
 November 1, 2018| 
  • Series News
Catching Up With David Malukas

Two years ago, David Malukas was competing at the top levels of the international karting world. Now, after a successful rookie season in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires that saw him finish fourth in the final standings with three victories (including a sweep at his home track, Road America), the 17-year-old Chicago native stands poised to continue his meteoric rise to the top level of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder.

Malukas and his BN Racing team have spent the past month testing their new Dallara IL-15 with plans for both team and driver to graduate to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires in 2019, which will see the team fielding squads on all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires.

Some might think one season in Pro Mazda (along with a partial 2017 season in the Cooper Tires Championship Powered by Mazda) would make for a steep learning curve, but Malukas and BN team owner Bryn Nuttall have a plan.

“My whole career, I’ve moved up to the next step as quickly as possible,” said Malukas. “That way, I am competing against drivers who are much better than me, and I learn from them. I can combine their knowledge with mine, and I learn from their decision-making, from the kind of passes they make.  I think that’s helped me mature quickly as well. But this time, I think I’ll stay longer, at least two years in Indy Lights, and see how it goes. It will be a big learning curve the first year, especially with no teammate to compare data with.

“I do think I’ve grown as a driver over the past year,” continued Malukas. “I started the season making impulsive decisions, without contemplating the consequences. But by the end of the year, I felt that I was making much smarter decisions. I would look at a move and think “could I crash here? Okay, let’s not do it” and time it better. We were a bit unlucky this year, but otherwise, it was a great year. It’s a great team, we connect really well, and that’s really important.”

The team took delivery of its new Dallara IL-15 last month but, in anticipation, Malukas tested with Belardi Auto Racing at last month’s Chris Griffis Memorial Test at Indianapolis, alongside USF2000 mentor Victor Franzoni. The car got his attention from the outset.

“It was a beast! It’s such a bigger car than the Tatuus PM-18 and there are so many more adjustments that the driver can make. But once I got going, things settled in quickly. The biggest adjustment I had to make was with the tires. The Cooper tire takes longer to come in on this car than on the Pro Mazda car, but when they kick in, they’re great.

“The Belardi guys were really helpful, it was great to drive for them. It really set us up. Victor knows the car so well and we work together well so it really worked out. It was so nice to be able to ask questions of someone who really knows the car.”

With the new car comes an entirely new set of challenges for Malukas – including physical fitness.  The heavier car and additional horsepower combine to require an upgrade in his workout regimen.

“I’m trying to find different regimens that will work. I feel skinny compared to the other drivers so I know I need more muscle, especially for the ovals. We’re working on neck and arms but, surprisingly, my legs need much more work as well. The pedals really got me at the Chris Griffis Test, I actually thought I had a seat problem but it was just from pushing the brakes so hard. You have to get on the brakes so much more on this car, but I got used to it after a while.”

Having driven on all three steps of the Mazda Road to Indy, Malukas appreciates the steady progression the ladder provides. The two Tatuus chassis, the USF-17 and PM-18, relate to each other quite well, he believes, while the Dallara Indy Lights car compares to its big brother, the Dallara IR-12 – which sets a driver up perfectly to transition into the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“The USF-17 was a great starting point. The PM-18 is such a great car to drive; you can feel the extra grip and the power. And it’s really loud, which makes you feel like you’re going really fast! I look at it as two separate sets of cars: USF2000 and Pro Mazda compare to each other, and it sounds like the Indy Lights car and the Indy car compare.  Going into Indy Lights, I didn’t think it would be that big a jump because the times are pretty similar, but it’s obviously such a different car.  If you lock up your brakes in Pro Mazda, you gather yourself up and you’re back at it on the next lap. In the Indy Lights car, it’s much more difficult. And the tires have much more grip. You have to be much more consistent, focused and patient. It’s a proper race car!”

As Malukas settles into the off-season, other priorities join the racing part of his life. With SATs on the horizon, school has taken precedence but he looks forward to re-introducing himself to his family members after a summer on the road.

“I feel like I haven’t seen my sisters in ages – one is in college, one just came home from Hawaii and the other just had her fourth child! And I feel like I haven’t had a proper conversation with my parents in a long time, we’ve all just been working. I’m usually at Starbucks studying til about 10 p.m. then come home and just pass out. I’m looking forward to the holidays so we can all connect.”

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