Mid-packers have no plans to pull over and let the championship contenders by without a fight as title battle heats up.
- IndyCar rookies David Malukas and Christian Lundgaard plan to race the leaders hard if giving the opportunity in the final two races of the season.
- Neither driver plans to pull over and let the championship contenders by without a fight.
- “Yes, they’ve got a championship, but so do we,” Lundgaard says.
Two of the top rookies in the NTT IndyCar Series this season will not be intimidated if they go head-to-head with any of the five drivers still in contention for the series championship in the season’s last two races.
When asked what would he do if he was forced to mix it up with guys like Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon, Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson and reigning champ Alex Palou, Christian Lundgaard answered point blank.
“Keep fighting,” Lundgaard, the 21-year-old Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver, said. “Yes, they’ve got a championship, but so do we. I mean, I wouldn’t say I would unnecessarily help anyone if it doesn’t help my own case.
David Malukas is 16th in the IndyCar points standings.
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“We are racing drivers, we want to win. If they’re racing for a championship, I mean, anyone in the race is there to take points away from each other. I wouldn’t say I’d try to help anyone.”
David Malukas has definitely stepped up his game of late, including a runner-up finish at Gateway last week, but the 20-year-old still trails Lundgaard in the points.
Lundgaard, a native of Denmark, has 283 points, including one podium in the second Indianapolis Grand Prix, and six top-10 finishes. Malukas, a Chicago-area native, has 272 points with one podium and three top-10s.
Lundgaard and Malukas are stand 15th and 16th in the standings.
“Even though I know people are in the championship run, once you go on track, you’re focused on your own deal unless there’s some teammate stuff maybe going on,” Malukas said. “It’s always in the back of your head that you know everybody is in a championship fight.“At Gateway, being in the front running going against Power and Newgarden, McLaughlin, you know they all have a chance at the championship, you make sure you have very committed passes. You don’t want to make things go south for you and them.
“If that situation happens in the last two races, we’re going to make sure to be careful and make committed moves. It’s in both drivers’ heads we’re fighting for our own championships and everybody is going to take it safe.”
Christian Lundgaard is 15th in the IndyCar standings.
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But, let’s say Power or Newgarden or Dixon make contact with either Lundgaard or Malukas and it potentially impacts their rookie championship status. Then what? Does revenge rear its head?
“I think personally, there are drivers on the grids that are harder than others to race against, for sure,” Lundgaard said. “But I think what I like about IndyCar is that it’s extremely tough and hard racing, but very respectful.
“Me and Simon (Pagenaud) had a bit of wheel banging in Mid-Ohio, but there were no hard feelings. It’s racing. It is what it is.
“If someone punches me off the track, what better am I if I do the same to him? I want to race clean, help my own case, make sure I get the best result that we can. Obviously, it doesn’t help if you’re being pushed off the track.
“I mean, I wouldn’t say I’m looking for vengeance in any way. Yeah, I think that’s it, honestly.”
Added Malukas with a laugh, “Personally, I’d get all the revenge, get like a TV series about it, dramatize it a bit.”
Then, he added seriously, “No, I mean, you don’t want to have bad blood. If something happens on track, you don’t want to have that in the back of your mind going into your next race or next session.”
But, Malukas continued, “It’s a tough situation to try to let go of something that you know that truly wasn’t your fault, they messed you up, your race. I always talk to the person after the fact, make sure we’re on good terms before we go back on track, hear their side of the story, kind of connect.“If IndyCar starts doing, like, shows (think Drive to Survive), I can dramatize some stuff. Maybe me and Lundgaard can put fists up, do some rolling around.”
Then he added with a big smile, “When the camera cuts, we’ll shake hands and go have coffee.”