Gateway Indy Lights: Malukas wins, beats Kirkwood, Pedersen
David Malukas is just two points off Kyle Kirkwood in the championship, after scoring his fifth win of the season at WorldWide Technology Raceway, while Benjamin Pedersen took third in his first ever oval race.
From the pole, Malukas of HMD Motorsports went into the lead with Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood tucking in behind, but when the championship leader tried to pass around the outside of Malukas, he failed. Then as he tucked back in, he got in Malukas’ dirty air, slid up the track, applied heavy doses of opposite lock and kept it off the wall.
However, he had lost significant momentum, which allowed Linus Lundqvist – who’d won a side-by-side battle with Global Racing Group w/HMD teammate Benjamin Pedersen on the opening lap – to pass Kirkwood for second.
One of Kirkwood’s teammates, Danial Frost, lost far more in the early stages, plunging from fifth on the grid down to ninth, behind Robert Megennis (Andretti), Toby Sowery (Juncos Hollinger Racing), Devlin DeFrancesco (Andretti Steinbrenner) and Alex Peroni (Carlin).
By Lap 20, Malukas’s margin over Lundqvist was 2.4sec, with Kirkwood a similar distance behind Lundqvist but a similar margin ahead of Pedersen. Megennis was already 4sec off the car in front, but comfortable ahead of Sowery who was being threatened by DeFrancesco.
The race remained green when Antonio Serravalle ground to a halt in his Pserra Racing machine with a deflated right-front tire, as he was able to tuck over to pit exit and required a tow back. However, the caution flew after Sowery halted on his 27th lap with what appeared to be a loose left-front wheel.
The restart on Lap 36 of 75 saw Pedersen held off a bold challenge from Kirkwood which saw him come an inch away from brushing the wall and actually hit the back of Lundqvist’s car, punching a hole in his own nose. Remarkably Pedersen held onto the subsequent twitch, while Kirkwood’s own car survived, and five laps later he set his fastest lap of the race. A couple of spots behind, DeFrancesco passed Megennis for fifth.
The next caution came with 16 laps to go. Just after Megennis trickled into the pits with a possible tire failure, Lundqvist’s right-front apparently let go and struck the wall at Turn 3. That elevated Kirkwood to second, Pedersen to third, followed by DeFrancesco, Peroni and Frost.
The checkered flag waved after just 66 laps and under caution. And so Malukas scored his fifth win of the year after leading every lap, Kirkwood retained his championship lead – albeit reduced to two points – and Pedersen scored a third place in his first ever oval race.
Mid-Ohio Indy Lights: Kirkwood supreme again, earns sixth win
Gateway Indy Lights: Malukas beats Kirkwood after hard scrap
Next month’s overall Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona winner could be decided by reliability of IMSA’s top-class cars, as teams battle to get on top of issues with their new-era hybrid machinery.
The Toyota-backed Sam Hunt Racing team will field two full-time cars next season.
After a successful two-year run in NASCAR Trucks with Kyle Busch Motorsports, John Hunter Nemechek is moving fulltime to the Xfinity Series with Joe Gibbs Racing.