Theo Pourchaire

Theo Pourchaire achieved an impressive NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut in last Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The 20-year-old Frenchman gained 11 spots over the course of the 85-lap event, more than any driver. He charged from 22nd at the start to finish 11th. Pourchaire raved after the race that the NTT INDYCAR SERIES was a pure form of racing, and won’t have a long wait until his next opportunity in the cockpit.

Arrow McLaren announced April 23 that David Malukas continues to recover from a left wrist injury and surgery and determined he wasn’t ready to return to the seat of the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet at Barber Motorsports Park. For the second consecutive race, Pourchaire will fill in, this time in Sunday’s Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix powered by AmFirst.

Callum Ilott replaced Malukas in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding, The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge and Indianapolis 500 Open Test. Due to a clash with a commitment to his full-time drive in the FIA World Endurance Championship, Ilott couldn’t be in the car at Long Beach or this weekend.

That opened the door for reigning FIA Formula 2 champion Pourchaire, who is serving as a test and reserve driver for the Stake F1 Team this season while also competing in the Super Formula open-wheel series in Japan.

"It's just an amazing, amazing series,” Pourchaire said of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. “The cars are amazing to drive. It's a pure race. This is what we love as racing drivers. The cars are tough to drive. They are quick. The tracks are bumpy. The racing is so amazing. I could overtake a lot of cars. So many pitstops during the race. I never did that in my entire career. I just enjoyed it.”

Pourchaire praised the entire Arrow McLaren organization, including teammates Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi for their guidance. When he stepped off the plane Thursday, it was the first time his feet touched California soil.

“From when I arrived at the team, they helped me a lot,” he said. “I didn't know the car or the track Friday, and we finished the P11 in the race. Thanks to them because, they helped me quite a lot.”

Pourchaire said it had been a long time since he experienced the overwhelming emotions following his debut. He couldn’t believe how much fun he had and is excited to get another chance this weekend at Barber.

“People sometimes forget that I'm only 20 years old,” he said. “I'm lucky that in the last six months, I was able to drive a Formula 2, a Formula One car, a Super Formula and now in INDYCAR, the best single seaters in the world. I can tell you INDYCAR is amazing. I'm so happy. In my first race, it's crazy when I think about it. Look at the guys in this field, the experience. They're really good.”

Pourchaire showed he’s no slouch, either.

He embarks to Alabama for the first time in his life, hopeful and more confident of a similar result as Long Beach. With just a couple days between returning to Indianapolis before he heads south to Barber Motorsports Park, how much time does he allow to look back at Long Beach to find areas to improve versus looking ahead to this weekend’s race at a 2.3-mile track he’s never seen?

“I feel like this afternoon I will work again a bit with my engineers,” he said. “We will speak a little bit about Long Beach, but not too much.

“Barber is a completely different track. I don't have a lot of time to adapt myself to this new challenge. I think we will mainly talk about the points we can improve from Long Beach that can be useful for Barber. I would say probably the out laps, in laps during the race, pit stops, race starts, overtaking, things like that.

“I think we will focus more on Barber right now. When I arrive in practice one, I have to be in the pace quickly because we have a little bit of time in practice one. Practice two is really short. I have to be already in the pace by practice two. Then qualifying; it's super tight in INDYCAR.”

Pourchaire said he’s looking most forward to the pure driving aspect of Barber Motorsports Park. The circuit is a faster, free-flowing natural terrain road course without concrete barriers within inches of his car like Long Beach’s temporary street circuit.

“I will be able to discover a new side of INDYCAR, a road course track, very high-speed,” he said. “I will be able to experience the downforce.”

He expects Barber to suit his driving style because it’s more similar to European-style tracks, with high-speed corners and elevation changes, on which he has raced most of his career.

“I expect it to be a little bit difficult at the beginning, but I will get used to the track after a few laps,” he said. “Driving a car with high downforce in high-speed corners, I know how to do it. But I never tried the INDYCAR SERIES car in those conditions.

“Again, I don't expect myself to be in the top five or top three after the first session. I expect myself to start from a good pace, follow my teammates’ data and work with them, work with the team, build a strong weekend from practice one. That's the key for me.”