Three NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookies earned starting positions inside the top 10 on Saturday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Only two seemed content with it.
David Malukas (No. 18 HMD Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports) thought he had a car fast enough to earn a place in the Firestone Fast Six. He had been fourth in the morning practice and looked poised to earn a spot in the top six for the second time this season when he just missed out.
Malukas will start eighth.
The fact that Pato O’Ward (No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet) went on to win the NTT P1 Award probably didn’t sit well with Malukas since he felt O’Ward kept him from advancing. Television replays showed Malukas had to deal with O’Ward’s slower car while on a hot lap in the second round.
Race control deemed no penalty for O’Ward.
“It was unfortunate; we had the pace, the car was so good,” Malukas said. “Yeah, it hurts, it really hurts. We definitely should have been through (to the Fast Six).
“The fact that we’re angry shows we’re going in the right direction.”
Malukas earned his lone Firestone Fast Six berth – the only one for a rookie driver this season – last month in Detroit.
Kyle Kirkwood (No. 14 ROKiT/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) and Callum Ilott (No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet) were the other two rookies earning top-10 starting positions for The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by the All-New 2023 Civic Type R (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network). Kirkwood will start ninth, Ilott 10th.
For Kirkwood, the starting position will be his best of the season. His best was 12th on a pair of street races (St. Petersburg and Long Beach). He attributed the gain on the road course to a recent test on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road circuit.
“Man, we were so close to transferring (to the Firestone Fast Six),” he said. “It’s just a tenth and a half (of a second) – all you need (to get) and you’ve got one lap to do it.”
Ilott started a career-best seventh in the GMR Grand Prix at IMS in May. He wasn’t sure he could achieve that Saturday, but “we definitely had a little more (speed) in there,” he said.
“I kind of put the first half of the first lap together and the second half of the second lap,” he said. “But, I didn’t really put it all together.”
This is the first time this season that three rookies will start in the top 10.
Power Penalized, Will Start 21st
Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) will start deep in the order – perhaps too deep – in Sunday’s race after he was penalized in the first round of qualifying for impeding the lap of former Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves (No. 06 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda of Meyer Shank Racing).
Power said his crew didn’t tell him Castroneves was coming, therefore he was unaware that he was getting in the Brazilian’s path.
“I told (the crew) before the session, I’ve got to know someone’s on a lap when I’m on my out lap,” Power said. “You can’t get one of these penalties, and (we) got one of these penalties. That’s just giving away a chance at the top six, maybe a pole.”
Three-fourths of Mid-Ohio’s 38 INDYCAR race winners have come from the front row. Only twice has the winner come from outside the top eight.
“As you know, in this series anything can happen … but you’re not going to win, put it like that,” Power said. “On a weekend when you have a car that can win you cannot be doing this.
“It’s on us. We got a penalty; that’s the rules.”
Castroneves was understanding of Power’s plight, but he said: “The rules are the rules – you’ve got to look in the mirror.”