Malukas to Defend Slim Indy Lights Point Lead in Portland
 September 8, 2021| 
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PALMETTO, Fla. – The battle for this year’s Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires title is delicately poised as the top rung on the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder system heads west to Portland International Raceway, just a few miles from downtown Portland, Ore., for a pair of races this weekend in conjunction with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Just three points separate David Malukas (HMD Motorsports) and Kyle Kirkwood (Andretti Autosport) with six races remaining in the 20-race season. At stake is a scholarship valued at $1.3 million which will guarantee entry into a minimum of three NTT INDYCAR SERIES races in 2022.

Malukas, 19, from Chicago, Ill., is riding the crest of a wave following an impressive pair of victories in the two most recent oval-track events at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill., just across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Louis, Mo. And he has enjoyed success previously on the 1.964-mile, 12-turn Portland road course, winning one of the two Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires events in 2018. But he cannot match the record of his primary rival, Kirkwood, 22, from Jupiter, Fla., who swept both Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship races en route to the title in 2018 and proved similarly dominant one year later in Indy Pro 2000 when he again scored two wins on his way to a second successive Road to Indy scholarship.

Malukas and Kirkwood have won six races apiece, taking them well clear of their pursuers in the point standings. Sweden’s Linus Lundqvist is the only other driver to have tasted the fruits of victory, having won on his debut in April with the Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports team at Barber Motorsports Park, in Leeds, Ala. He added a second win at the Indianapolis Grand Prix road course in May. Lundqvist, last year’s Formula Regional Americas champion, remains in contention for the championship but will require a string of top results to overcome his current 59-point deficit to Malukas.

Fourth place in the championship also is being hotly contested with Lundqvist’s teammate, Benjamin Pedersen, Italian-Canadian Devlin DeFrancesco (Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport) and Danial Frost (Andretti Autosport), from Singapore, separated by just a single point.

Pedersen, who hails originally from Copenhagen, Denmark, but has been based for most of his life in the Pacific Northwest, will arrive at his home track with momentum on his side following a pair of podium finishes at World Wide Technology Raceway.

Manuel Sulaiman, from Puebla, Mexico, will make his Indy Lights debut with the HMD Motorsports team after claiming three Indy Pro 2000 wins over the past two seasons, while Rasmus Lindh, from Gothenburg, Sweden, also will race for the time at this level with Juncos Hollinger Racing after finishing second to Kirkwood in both the USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 title-chases in 2018 and 2019.

A busy weekend for the Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Portland will begin with a pair of test sessions on Friday, September 10, followed by official practice at 3:00 p.m. PDT. The first of two qualifying sessions at 4:35 p.m. will establish the starting order for Race One at 1:55 p.m. on Saturday. A second qualifying session earlier, at 11:25 a.m., will set the grid for Race Two at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, immediately prior to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES headline event.

Comprehensive coverage can be found on Peacock Premium in the U.S., on REV TV in Canada, and internationally on The Race YouTube channel, the Road to Indy TV App and at RoadToIndy.TV and indylights.com.
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