Malukas signing the next ingredient in MSR’s quest for success

Mike Shank’s most successful days as an IndyCar entrant came with a single-car operation built around Jack Harvey. The Briton placed 13th in the 2021 IndyCar championship before leaving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, and in the seasons that have followed, the team has been searching for the same kind of output – but better – in an expanded program.

With co-owner Jim Meyer added to the Ohio-based team in 2018, Meyer Shank Racing has grown in every way, including the shift to a second full-time car in 2022 and rebooting with a pair of Indy 500-winning veterans in Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud. But the big results they were chasing as a two-car outfit were elusive as Pagenaud’s run to 15th in the standings was the best result for MSR across 2022-2023.

The need for greater output led to another reboot during the offseason with the signing of Felix Rosenqvist from Arrow McLaren and the elevation of MSR’s IMSA prototype champion Tom Blomqvist to the Nos. 60 and 66 entries, and on Rosenqvist’s side, the potential was immediately shown.


Although the last few races haven’t been exceptionally kind, the Swede enters this weekend’s race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca holding 10th in the championship thanks to six top 10s from eight events. And in the sister No. 66 Honda, Rosenqvist has new teammate David Malukas – his replacement at Arrow McLaren – arriving to contest his first race for MSR and first of the year after being sidelined due to an injury as the team conducts a mid-season reboot with the Illinois native after recently parking Blomqvist.

Pulling Blomqvist from the car was an aggressive move which spoke to the pressure the team is under to deliver immediate results for its sponsors. Although Blomqvist won’t be returning to IndyCar for MSR, he remains a part of the team’s long-term plans as it prepares to relaunch its IMSA GTP effort in 2025, and with the door wide open for Malukas to stake his claim in the No. 66, Shank says he’s already been impressed with the 22-year-old after he was instantly fast during last week’s hybrid engine test on the Milwaukee oval.

“To be honest with you, I’d say he was even better than I thought he’d be,” Shank told RACER. “Wow. I mean, he got in immediately and was right there. Even in those little mock races IndyCar had us doing, he got a little racy, passed (RLL’s Christian) Lundgaard pretty aggressively into Turn 1 and that was really good.

Malukas made his debut behind the wheel for MSR at the recent Open Test at the Milwaukee Mile. Chris Jones/IMS Photo

“We didn’t want him to crash it, but he needed to go out and rub some elbows in this group because it’s getting more and more aggressive. And he needs to show that he’s not gonna get pushed around. Now, his ability to read the car on an oval, he’s really good. It’s going to be up to us to give him a car that’s capable, because you know how much the car is a part of the oval. So I’m optimistic about what we’ve got here with David.”

Six of the 10 races left to run in the championship are on ovals, which plays to the skills Malukas demonstrated during his rookie and sophomore IndyCar seasons with Dale Coyne Racing. The true challenge for him starts on the Laguna Seca road course and its new high-grip pavement which will put his recovering left hand and wrist through hell as he fights to turn the heavily-downforced car 11 times per lap. Shank knows he’ll have to set expectations for his new driver a bit lower than desired this weekend and likely at the next race at the Mid-Ohio road course in early July.

“I think he’s gonna have his hands full for Laguna,” he said. “It’s gonna be hard for his wrist to keep up with the reaction he’s gonna need to have. But I’ve given him a good leash. He doesn’t have to be perfect. He doesn’t have to be P1, I just need P17 or better. That’s all I need, and a progression of improvement, that’s all. With that, I’ll be totally happy.”

For a boisterous team like MSR which mirrors Shank’s personality, a quirky character like Malukas might not have been an instant fit for its chemistry, but through his visits to the shop and during the time spent with the team observing at Road America and testing in Milwaukee, a bond has already grown.

“For one thing, he’s a quiet guy, but not it’s a weird dynamic,” Shank said. “He comes across as kind of being quiet and quirky, but he knows what he wants. He asked for what he wanted from the car, and he listened when he needed to, listened to Helio or anyone else offering advice. He was quick to take instruction from Barry Waddell, who spots and does driver coaching. David was all over it. He’s happy to have it and was very calm in the car. I would say we were more rattled than he was at the beginning, because the car wasn’t working right at first.

“He just handled it really well. Where in my head I would have been spinning, he’s very cool. And I told his dad, our engineers like working with him. Listen, we’re really optimistic that he can make the most out of this. For both sides, we need him to do well. We need that car to get out of the slump it’s in.”

Story originally appeared on Racer