McLaren drops injured IndyCar driver Malukas

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David Malukas was released by Arrow McLaren on Monday without running an IndyCar race for the team because of injuries the 22-year-old suffered in an offseason mountain biking crash.

Malukas was signed in September to the three-car IndyCar team when McLaren was in a late scramble to fill a seat because two-time series champion Alex Palou breached his contract and declined to join the team as planned in 2024.

The job suddenly fell to Malukas, who was still looking for a confirmed third season in IndyCar. Although he’s done all the social media and marketing McLaren asked of him, he dislocated his left wrist and tore tendons when he crashed on his mountain bike one month before the season-opening race.

The Feb. 11 accident was expected to cost Malukas two races, the team believed. But when he could not compete Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, it marked his fourth consecutive missed race and triggered a clause in his contract that allowed McLaren to terminate the deal.

McLaren said in a statement Malukas has been “unavailable for the entirety of the season to date, with no confirmed return date, as a result of a left wrist injury, which occurred February 11, in a mountain biking incident.”

Malukas thanked McLaren for the opportunity, noting his rehab was taking longer than expected.

“The past three months have been challenging. I felt privileged to have had the opportunity to drive for Arrow McLaren and regret that it never materialized. I would have loved to have continued representing the team and its partners going forward,” Malukas said. “They have been good, and I appreciate all they have done for me. I’ve done everything possible to speed up the rehab process — treatments, physiotherapy, strength training — but my recovery has taken longer than anticipated.”

McLaren has used Callum Ilott and Theo Pouchaire over the first four races, and the duo could combine to complete the season. Both have superseding commitments in other racing series that prohibit either joining Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi full-time.

McLaren had hinted that it was running out of time on Malukas during the Long Beach race weekend earlier this month.

“The team has been very supportive of David, but what’s more unfortunate is his injury is much more serious than we thought initially,” McLaren team principal Gavin Ward said over the weekend.

“A big part of our focus has been trying to help him in every way in his recovery, but we’ve also been spending an awful lot of time to make sure we have competitive drivers in the No. 6 car. Unfortunately, it’s just a lot of uncertainty right now. And we’re having to make difficult decisions. We’re doing our best to try and take care of him, but at the end of the day, we also have to look after the performance of the team.”

Malukas won seven of 20 IndyNXT races with 16 podiums during a fierce 2021 battle for the championship he lost to Kyle Kirkwood. But he earned a seat in the IndyCar Series with Dale Coyne Racing, even though Malukas’ ride was largely funded by family money. Driving for an underfunded and small Coyne team, Malukas scored two podiums over two seasons.

He was also fast in the Indianapolis 500 and proved competitive with Team Penske cars each year at Gateway. Even so, he wasn’t a candidate for a top ride when he decided he wouldn’t return to Coyne in 2024.

That changed in mid-August, when McLaren learned Palou had decided to remain at Chip Ganassi Racing and breach his contract with McLaren. The two sides are stuck in an expensive civil lawsuit.

McLaren had few options available so late in free agency and chose Malukas, who won’t get a chance to make his debut.

“Every injury is different and every body heals at a different pace,” Malukas said. “I’ll turn my full attention to getting back to 100% and then prove that I am ready and able to compete to win.”

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