BN Racing is setting a new standard in the Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires.
Led by team owner and Englishman Bryn Nuttal, BN Racing has quickly become a force to be reckoned with since debuting in 2017 in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship – the entry rung of the three-tiered, INDYCAR-sanctioned development ladder. BN stepped up to the next level in 2018, capturing three wins in Indy Pro 2000 presented by Cooper Tires (formerly known as Pro Mazda) with driver David Malukas.
Enter 2019 and the Chicago-based squad looks poised on repeating history, but this time at the top step of the RTI ladder – Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires. Oh, and that Malukas kid is coming, too.
In the team’s first official Indy Lights test at the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course in December, BN Racing topped two of the four timed sessions and placed second in another.
“It was an excellent test for us. We certainly didn’t expect to be that fast right of the bat,” Nuttal said. “So to be fastest on Day 1 overall and even our long run pace was very good, which people won’t see on the timesheets. … As a team, we know what we're capable of, but it would have been very arrogant to suggest we could arrive at our first official test and be fastest.
“Honestly, our aim was to be within half a second. I think that would have been reasonable so to be fastest (the first day) was a big surprise and also a big achievement.”
Perhaps the biggest help in getting up to speed so quickly came from Malukas, who drove an Indy Lights car for Belardi Auto Racing in the Chris Griffis Memorial Test on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in September since BN Racing didn’t even have a Dallara IL-15 chassis at the time.
“That test was so that David didn’t fall behind,” Nuttal explained. “All his main rivals from this year did the test (in Lights), so for him as a driver, missing out on mileage would have been a bad thing, especially during the winter and with such a different car. So it didn’t really benefit BN Racing, it was just mileage for David.”
The continued progress of literally stepping up to a new challenge has been clockwork for Malukas and the team. The 17-year-old Chicagoan insisted they “already knew what we were getting ourselves into.” He said the toughest part of the transition between RTI classes has been learning the nuances of how the Cooper tires perform.
“Each class so far has had a difference of when the tires come in and when they hit their peak,” Malukas said. “The IL-15 comes in after a few laps while the PM-18 comes in very quickly depending on track temp. This took me by surprise when I first went out but got used to it by the end of the Chris Griffis test. Once the tires do hit their peaks, they feel very similar with lots of grip and consistency.”
Considering BN Racing has seemed to adapt to everything on and off the track like a duck to water, it begs the question: What exactly are the goals for 2019?
“After the official Homestead test, it’s very easy to get excited, but from my point of view that’s just one track. We've got 10 more to try and repeat that feat,” said Nuttal, who also expects to continue racing programs in both USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 this year. “Obviously, we’ve now got a great base to start from, a good driver in David, but I’d be more than happy if we can get a podium or two in our first year (in Indy Lights).
“If Andretti (Autosport) have four cars again next year, we’ve got to beat half of them to do that. But like I’ve said before, we’ve surprised people in the past – (at) Homestead we certainly did – so let’s see what happens in 2019.”
BN Racing is expected to be among the Indy Lights teams testing Tuesday and Wednesday at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, as part of INDYCAR Spring Training. On-track sessions are scheduled from 9-10:45 a.m. and 2-3:15 p.m. ET Tuesday and from 9-10:45 a.m. Wednesday.
All three levels of the Road to Indy open their seasons with doubleheader race weekends as part of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg weekend March 8-10.