By Steve Wittich
For the fifth time in 2021, David Malukas was the quickest driver during an Indy Lights qualifying session, breaking a tie for the most poles this season with title rival Kyle Kirkwood. It’s the eighth time in fifteen qualifying sessions that Malukas bested Kirkwood.
More importantly, Malukas stablemates Linus Lundqvist, Benjamin Pedersen, and newcomer Manuel Sulaiman also out-qualified Kirkwood, leading to an HMD Motorsports/Global Racing Group lockout of the front two rows.
The soon-to-be 20-year-old Malukas now has nine career Road To Indy poles.
The pole is the first at Portland International Raceway for HMD Motorsports and the Brownsburg, Ind. based teams eighth as a team on the top rung of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires.
Starting from the preferred spot isn’t the only benefit that the Chicagoan won for his lap timed at 63.7747 seconds. The bonus point increases Malukas gap to chaser Kirkwood to four points heading into Saturday’s action.
Like we mentioned in our preview, Malukas’ teammates can play a huge role in helping him secure a championship. It does not get more helpful than putting not one, not two, but three buffers between him and Kirkwood.
Malukas also credited having three teammates for helping them nail the optimal setup.
“This is a prime example of the benefit of having good teammates,” explained an ecstatic Malukas to TSO Ladder. “Throughout the tests and practice, we did completely different setups. We chose the best from everybody and put it all together on low fuel, and the times showed. One-two-three-four. Having the teammates is a big deal!”
Lundqvist will start on the front row for the seventh time in 2021, but it’s his first appearance in the top two spots since starting on the pole for Race #2 in Detroit.
Pedersen will start Race #1 of his home race weekend behind Malukas, the Pacific Northwest resident’s best road or street course start of his rookie season.
Newest stablemate Sulaiman was the only driver to go quickest on his final qualifying lap, going six-hundredths of a second faster than Kirkwood.
Kirkwood, in fifth, leads the Andretti Autosport/Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport quartet that was separated by just over three-tenths of a second.
When the first of two Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires qualifying sessions got underway, the skies were overcast, the ambient temperature was 69F, and the track temperature was 82F.
When the session began, the 1.964-mile, 12-Turn road course was relatively dirty after the second ARCA Menards Series West Practice session.
The HMD Motorsports/Global Racing Group stablemates of Lundqvist, Malukas, and Pedersen all held the provisional pole in the first ten minutes, but lap times, even though the drivers were on fresh Cooper Tire slicks, were almost a full second behind the earlier testing times.
At the halfway mark of the 25-minute session, the three championship contenders found themselves one-two-three on the timing screens, separated by a scant 0.1288 seconds. Also within two-tenths of a second was the third of the HMD Motorsports/Global Racing Group stablemates, Benjamin Pedersen.
With a dozen minutes remaining in the all-important session to set the grid for the first race of the weekend, the track was quiet as the crews made minor adjustments and mounted fresh Cooper Tire slicks.
The timing screen started to light up with green, signifying drivers going quicker with five minutes remaining. Pedersen was the first driver to supplant Malukas from the provisional pole and was the first driver below 64 seconds. Only 30 seconds later, his teammate Lundqvist went three-hundredths quicker to take over the provisional pole.
With just over two minutes remaining, Malukas joined the fun, moving to the provisional pole on his 16th lap of the session. He went quicker on his next lap to secure the all-important inside front row starting spot.
Indy Lights Grand Prix Of Portland Presented By Cooper Tires qualifying #1 results
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||TEAM||FAST LAP||DIFF.|
|1||79||David Malukas||HMD Motorsports||1:03.7747||——|
|2||26||Linus Lundqvist||Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports||1:03.8622||0.0875|
|3||24||Benjamin Pedersen||Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports||1:03.9223||0.1476|
|4||59||Manuel Sulaiman||HMD Motorsports||1:03.9755||0.2008|
|5||28||Kyle Kirkwood||Andretti Autosport||1:04.0377||0.2630|
|6||27||Robert Megennis||Andretti Autosport||1:04.1861||0.4114|
|7||68||Danial Frost||Andretti Autosport||1:04.3166||0.5419|
|8||17||Devlin DeFrancesco||Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport||1:04.3942||0.6195|
|9||51||Rasmus Lindh||Juncos Hollinger Racing||1:04.4564||0.6817|
|10||2||Sting Ray Robb||Juncos Hollinger Racing||1:04.7164||0.9417|
The teams and drivers are back on track at 11:25 am for another round of qualifying. Indy Lights Grand Prix Of Portland Presented By Cooper Tires Race #1 is set to get the green flag at 1:55 pm on Saturday. All times are Pacific.