By Tony DiZinno
For the second consecutive Friday in the trio Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires series, there were as many different polesitters as there were qualifying sessions.
And for the second consecutive Friday, the last of those was David Malukas in the No. 79 HMD Motorsports Dallara IL-15 on the streets of St. Petersburg.
A week ago in Barber Motorsports Park there were six in six sessions. Today there were five in five, with Malukas following Christian Brooks and Kiko Porto in USF2000, Braden Eves in Indy Pro 2000 and Kyle Kirkwood in the first of two Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires sessions.
The Illinois native set a new track record in the process, as well, around the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course. Malukas’ best time of 1:04.6720, set on his 20th of 22 laps, eclipsed the previous mark set by Pato O’Ward in 2018 at 1:05.0392. That weekend saw O’Ward win his maiden Indy Lights race and eventually begin his run to the season championship; hot on the heels of his first Indy Lights race win last week in Barber, Malukas will be keen to emulate the young Mexican as this year progresses.
As per usual in Indy Lights qualifying, a flurry of activity occurs early in the first 30 minutes before pit stops, a swap to fresh sets of Cooper Tires, and a changing of the order occurs.
On this occasion, it looked like Malukas’ fellow Barber winner Linus Lundqvist in the No. 26 Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports entry looked the polesitter in waiting. His best time on the first runs was 1:05.1722, ahead of St. Pete race one polesitter Kirkwood at 1:05.1867, then Danial Frost, Malukas and Devlin DeFrancesco. Lundqvist’s best lap was set on his 10th of 12 flyers around the circuit.
But Malukas lowered the bar first with another 1:05 lap, 1:05.1508 on his 16th lap of qualifying, followed by a pair of laps in the 1:04 range at 1:04.7423 and then the eventual pole lap of 1:04.6491.
Kirkwood, in the No. 28 Andretti Autosport entry, was the only other driver to break into the 1:04s and ended 0.1940 of a second off pace. Teammates DeFrancesco and Frost were next, with Alex Peroni slotting the No. 5 Carlin entry up to P5 after some work by the Delray Beach, Fla.-based team to help improve the car for qualifying.
Juncos Racing’s Toby Sowery in sixth ensured four different teams in the top six, with Lundqivst sliding to seventh and only able to improve an extra hundredth. He’s ahead of Robert Megennis, a past St. Pete winner in USF2000, with Benjamin Pedersen and Antonio Serravalle completing the top 10 runners. Last year’s Indy Pro 2000 champion Sting Ray Robb was 11th, only 0.9084 off pole, but still showing the depth of competition within this series.
The first of two Indy Lights races is Saturday at 3:20 p.m. ET and will follow NTT IndyCar Series qualifying.
Indy Lights Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by Andersen Interior Contracting Race 2 Qualifying
|1||79||David Malukas||HMD Motorsports||1:04.6491||1:04.6491||22|
|2||28||Kyle Kirkwood||Andretti Autosport||1:04.8431||0.1940||23|
|3||17||Devlin DeFrancesco||Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport||1:04.9869||0.3378||23|
|4||68||Danial Frost||Andretti Autosport||1:05.0069||0.3578||22|
|6||51||Toby Sowery||Juncos Racing||1:05.1485||0.4994||20|
|7||26||Linus Lundqvist||Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports||1:05.1637||0.5146||22|
|8||27||Robert Megennis||Andretti Autosport||1:05.2829||0.6338||23|
|9||24||Benjamin Pedersen||Global Racing Group wHMD Motorsports||1:05.3454||0.6963||23|
|10||11||Antonio Serravalle||Pserra Racing||1:05.5545||0.9054||21|
|11||2||Sting Ray Robb||Juncos Racing||1:05.5575||0.9084||17|
|12||59||Nikita Lastochkin||HMD Motorsports||1:05.6570||1.0079||20|