St. Pete Indy Lights: Malukas holds off Kirkwood in Race 2
David Malukas scored his second win of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season, but only after holding off a strong late challenge from Kyle Kirkwood.
Polesitter Malukas of HMD Motorsports appeared to be under threat at Turn 1, Lap 1, as yesterday’s winner Kyle Kirkwood sought to sweep around the outside which would have given him the inside for Turn 2. However, the Andretti Autosport driver pinched Malukas too tight to the T1 apex, Malukas bounced off the inside curb and pushed Kirkwood out wide to make space for himself, and the Andretti driver was fortunate to hold onto second.
Less fortunate was Juncos Racing’s Toby Sowery who started sixth but appeared to tag Danial Frost’s Andretti car and damaged his front wing. He eventually received the black flag to have it replaced, but didn’t lose out too badly as the caution flag flew to retrieve Christian Bogle’s Carlin car. Already gone from the action by then was the other Juncos machine of Sting Ray Robb which crashed on the opening lap.
The Lap 9 restart saw Malukas remain clear of Kirkwood and the pair quickly opened up a gap over their pursuers. This advantage was exaggerated by a hard battle between Devlin DeFrancesco and Linus Lundqvist, who won the opening race at Barber Motorsports Park. The Swede, up from seventh on the grid, wasn’t to be intimidated by a squeeze from the Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport driver at Turn 1, and wrested third place from him, but was now 4sec behind the leaders.
Frost and Robert Megennis completed the top six at Lap 15 of the 40-lap event, but on Lap 16 Frost used his push-to-pass – which activates when a driver is within 1.5sec of the car in front – to pass DeFrancesco for fourth at the end of the front straight.
At the halfway point, Kirkwood had fallen to 3sec behind Malukas, but he then steadied the gap, and even started paring it back with fastest lap of the race (at that stage) on Lap 23.
With five laps to go, Benjamin Pedersen’s Global Racing Group drafted and outbraked Robert Megennis on the outside at Turn 1 to grab sixth. But all attention had switched to the lead battle, for Kirkwood had hunted Malukas down, and was filling his mirrors to such an extent that Malukas brushed the wall coming onto the front straight.
However, thereafter the HMD driver maintained his cool to hold onto the lead and win by 0.6829sec. Lundqvist was a dozen seconds behind, 1.8662 ahead of Frost, who was 11sec clear of DeFrancesco.