David Malukas

Today’s question: Tyrese Haliburton of the Indiana Pacers was the breakout star of the NBA’s new In-Season Tournament. What NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver could mirror Haliburton and become a breakthrough star with a victory or strong performance at the series’ newest special event, the $1 Million Challenge on March 24 at The Thermal Club?

Curt Cavin: My selection is Kyle Kirkwood, although I acknowledge that he, unlike Haliburton, has experienced winning at the highest level, including capturing this year’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach from the pole, a statement made in a marquee NTT INDYCAR SERIES event. Still, Kirkwood, like Haliburton, is in the category of someone everyone in his sport considers a future star but to whom the outside world is only now being introduced. To go to the next level, Kirkwood needs to do one of these things: win a lot more races, win the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge or spend the season in the lead group battling for the series championship. Currently, his two race wins are not enough. However, I expect him to rise quickly as Haliburton has.

Eric Smith: Like Curt, I’ll go with another third-year driver who was victorious during his sophomore season. That driver is Christian Lundgaard. Not only was he strong on natural road courses in 2023 (sixth, fourth, seventh, fourth, fourth, 11th, sixth, respectively),but he was strong in the two-day Thermal Club test session, too, chiming in at P2 on the opening day. That to me makes him among the drivers who can realistically win. Lundgaard is just 22 and has fully embraced the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and American culture. Scoring a win in a $1-million race would propel Lundgaard to his Haliburton-like moment.

Paul Kelly: David Malukas. Little Dave has all the ingredients to become a star in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES – natural speed (especially on ovals), a winning pedigree in junior series, plenty of personality and charisma, and a funny nickname he gave himself that won’t go away. Now he just needs a win. And he’s in a better spot to achieve that first career victory now that he has moved from Dale Coyne Racing to Arrow McLaren. It won’t be easy to beat the other 26-plus drivers at Thermal, let alone Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi under the same team awning. But if Malukas could do it in the desert and win the $1 Million Challenge, Little Dave could be on his way to becoming a big star in the series.