Catching Up With BN Racing
 January 30, 2019| 
  • Series News
BN Feature 2019

Even team owner Bryn Nuttall could not have predicted BN Racing’s meteoric rise through the ranks of the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. Joining the development series ladder in 2017 and progressing through the first two rungs in just two years, the team stands poised to make their Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires debut this season – making them the only team to have squads on all three levels of the Road to Indy, and placing them just one step away from the NTT IndyCar Series.

Making their Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship debut at Indianapolis in 2017, BN Racing and driver David Malukas scored their first series pole and maiden podium at the next race at Road America, near the team’s home base in Chicago. With poles and victories last year in the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, a move to Indy Lights in 2019 became the goal.

Englishman Nuttall had an extensive background in formula car racing and karting, in addition to work as a driver coach and manager, mechanic, engineer and engine specialist when he connected with the young Malukas in 2014. The duo saw immediate success, dominating the 2015 IAME X30 World Championship in Le Mans, France before making the decision to join the Road to Indy in 2017. Nuttall knows the giant step he has undertaken but has confidence that the team’s chart-topping speed at last month’s series test bodes well for a very bright future.

“This latest success didn’t come out of the blue,” said Nuttall. “It came from the same reasons we saw success in USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 so quickly. I questioned myself every day as we led up to Indianapolis two years ago, because it was such a big step just to do USF2000 properly, to get results. We wanted to be a successful team right out of the box, with everything from the truck to the cars looking right. We had everything there to do the job and it’s been a matter of perfecting and building on that every day.”

Despite missing five races in 2017, Malukas finished 10th in the final standings. BN made the decision to graduate directly into the Indy Pro 2000 Championship last season – a decision that vindicated by Malukas’ three victories, six podiums and a fourth-place finish in the standings.  While he could have remained in the series for another season and aimed at the championship title, the 17-year-old Malukas and Nuttall believed that the push forward was the best choice for him.

“I think it’s good for drivers to push themselves, to learn in a harder environment,” said Nuttall. “IndyCar is the end goal for all these drivers, so I believe it’s more valuable to get into Indy Lights quickly, where they’ll be working with engineers, in a similar car. It’s not that simple for every driver, but this is what’s worked for us.”

Making the decision to move into the Indy Lights series in 2019, BN Racing bought a Dallara IL-15 from Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and from moment one, the realization of what lay ahead began to sink in. BN Racing shook down the new car on a cold day in October, impressed with the package right out of the box. 

“You can really see the progression up the ladder, from the detail on the cars to the engineering, the management side – as you go up, all those things increase as well. We have to be much more methodical now. It’s almost like two different sets of classes: on one hand, you have USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000, and on the other hand you have Indy Lights and IndyCar. USF and Indy Pro 2000 share a similar Tatuus chassis while Indy Lights and IndyCar share a similar Dallara. And you look at the size of the car – it’s not ‘light’ at all, it’s a big car!”

The team had competed on several ovals with the Road to Indy – the 0.686-mile Lucas Oil Raceway and the larger 1.25-mile Gateway Motorsports Park. Going 165 mph at Gateway is one thing, but the prospects of going over 200 mph in the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway looms large in everyone’s mindset.

“Even at Gateway, I was looking at the speeds and thinking ‘we are really traveling now!’ I’m almost dreading the anticipation of rolling out onto the oval for the first time. I don’t know if it will be nerves or what, but it will be something.”

Malukas had tested with the Belardi Auto Racing team at the Chris Griffis Memorial Test in September to get better acquainted with the car, pacing about half a second behind the leaders. With tempered expectations, the BN Racing team headed to the series test at Homestead in December with the plan to simply continue learning the car and compare themselves against the other teams. Instead, Malukas showed speed immediately, setting the quickest time on the first day. It perfectly capped off what had already been an amazing 2018.

“It really was a special year for us last year: first wins, our first one-two as a team (Malukas and Toby Sowery at Road America). But I have to say, the Homestead test was the biggest achievement. Our aim was to be close to the leaders but to be fastest on day one was pretty unbelievable.”

In addition to the team, Malukas remains a large part of the 2019 puzzle. Joining the series as a relatively green 15-year-old, the Chicagoan has matured in his role as lead driver, and Nuttall appreciates the changes the young driver has gone through in the four years they’ve been working together.

“David has progressed quickly, and that showed at Homestead. He was confident and it showed in his driving. He’s grown up a lot, refining himself on and off the racetrack. He’s upped his fitness game, though he still has some growing to do. I probably don’t see it, since I see him so often, but I see what he’s done on the racetrack and that’s impressive.”

With a Florida test program scheduled ahead of the season opener at St. Petersburg, Fla. for the Indy Lights car, and two other series cars under the tent to manage, BN Racing is at full throttle. Driver announcements are pending for the USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 portions of the team, where Nuttall feels confident about the prospects for more wins and title runs. Understandably, Indy Lights expectations altered slightly with their testing success.

“2017 was supposed to be a learning year for us, with the plan to really do something the next year, and we know how that went! I knew how difficult Indy Lights would be compared to the other two series, but then we went to the Homestead test and expectations changed. My realistic target, though, is for us to get a podium and anything more is great. The championship is a two-year plan.”

And after those two years, what happens next?

“IndyCar is another huge step. I know the resources required to do it right, and I don’t want to do anything if we can’t do it right, but I’ve surprised myself in the past. For David, I’d like him to win the Indy Lights championship and go on to be a successful IndyCar driver with a Penske or an Andretti. But I’ve learned these past two years that nothing is impossible – we can’t help but dream.”

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