David Malukas likely to miss St. Pete following surgery on dislocated wrist

David Malukas is likely to miss his first and second races as an Arrow McLaren driver after undergoing successful surgery Tuesday afternoon to repair torn ligaments in his dislocated left wrist suffered while mountain biking over the weekend, his team said in a statement. The 22-year-old driver is now expected to be sidelined for two final preseason IndyCar tests -- one a manufacturer hybrid test, the other a full-field test at Sebring, both later this month -- as well as the season-opening round on the streets of St. Pete March 8-10 and the $1 Million Challenge weekend at The Thermal Club in southern California March 22-24.

In a statement, Arrow McLaren says they expect Malukas's recovery from the injury and related surgery to take six weeks, following the removal of his stitches on Feb. 22. They say conversations and evaluations around their full-time driver's replacement are ongoing.

"It's just heartbreaking for David, of course, and our entire team," team principal Gavin Ward said in a release. "We've seen how much work he and this entire group has put into preparing for his first season in papaya. But it's often how we recover from setbacks and adversity that defines us and our character.

"We will do everything we can to support David in his recovery, and when he's back on-track, the success will be all the sweeter."

Said Malukas in the release: "I'm gutted this happened, especially so close to the season. I feel horrible for the team who have worked so hard to prepare for our first season together. I will be working hard to get back on-track as soon as I can. I can't wait to go racing with the team in papaya."

David Malukas will be forced to miss his planned debut with Arrow McLaren at St. Pete next month after undergoing surgery Tuesday to repair a fractured hand suffered in a mountain biking accident.
David Malukas will be forced to miss his planned debut with Arrow McLaren at St. Pete next month after undergoing surgery Tuesday to repair a fractured hand suffered in a mountain biking accident.

Malukas's injury comes just over five months after sliding into one of the top available rides on the IndyCar grid last year, the two-time podium finisher hired after Alex Palou opted to remain with Chip Ganassi Racing despite having already signed a contract with Arrow McLaren for the next three years. In early-August at the Music City Grand Prix last year, Malukas told reporters he had a "reliable option" for his future, having already told Dale Coyne Racing of his intentions to pursue other opportunities after two years in the No. 18 Honda.

Days later, Palou's lawyers told McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown of the eventual two-time IndyCar champ's intentions to stay put, likely opening the door for Malukas to take a much larger leap up the grid ahead of his third season. Despite a trying second season with Coyne that saw Malukas drop a spot in the drivers' points championship (from 16th in 2022 to 17th) with six DNFs, the 2021 Indy Lights runner-up recorded his second-career podium at World Wide Technology Raceway, one year after his first that also came there. His 8th-place at Portland in the season's penultimate race was his sixth top-10 of the year.

He replaces series veteran Felix Rosenqvist in the No. 6 Chevy, who after two years of rumors about potentially being replaced by Palou, jumped to Meyer Shank Racing. In three seasons with Arrow McLaren, Rosenqvist recorded four poles, three podiums and seven top-5 finishes with a best championship result of 8th (2022).

More: David Malukas will undergo surgery Tuesday for fractured hand suffered mountain biking

Candidates to stand-in for Malukas

Arrow McLaren officials -- Brown, team principal Gavin Ward and sporting director Tony Kanaan -- seem to have a handful of intriguing options as Malukas's temporary replacement. Though those conversations began Tuesday. With the understanding that their injured driver will likely need more than a month to fully recover, it's not immediately clear who the likely stand-in will be.

Ex-Andretti Global IndyCar driver Zach Veach, who last raced in the series at Mid-Ohio in 2020 before he lost his seat, has recently been serving as Arrow McLaren's reserve driver, while logging time in the simulator and serving as a spotter on race weekends. He did, though, only log nine top-10s during his nearly three-year tenure with Andretti, and his three-plus years out of the cockpit would pose questions about his chances to be competitive.

Potentially the strongest option from a competitive standpoint, ex-Juncos Hollinger Racing driver Callum Ilott is likely to be available, given the lack of racing conflicts in his full-time WEC schedule this year with Hertz Team Jota. His sportscar season is set to kick off Feb. 24-25 with the Prologue in Qatar, making it likely tough to make the late-February full-field preseason IndyCar test at Sebring that would help him any Malukas replacement get acquainted with the car and the team. Given his flashes of speed during his two seasons with JHR -- including a 5th-place finish a year ago at St. Pete -- they may want to give him a shot anyways, as a notable driver on the free agent market looking to break back into the series for 2025. Ilott was also discussed as a potential option to replace Rosenqvist/Palou last year, with JHR holding a team option on the young British driver into December possibly factoring into him being passed over for Malukas. After the WEC season-opener, the series doesn't race again until April 21, making the St. Pete and Thermal race weekends theoretically do-able alongside his WEC responsibilities.

Outside of two other sidelined full-time drivers from a year ago -- namely Dreyer and Reinbold Indy 500-only driver Conor Daly, as well as Dale Coyne Racing candidate Jack Harvey -- and an Arrow McLaren full-timer-turned-replacement (Oliver Askew), the team would see to have another intriguing, noteworthy, possibly outside-the-box option inside its shop: Kanaan.

The 49-year-old has twice "retired" -- once after a final partial season with AJ Foyt Racing in 2020 and then again after last year's 500 run with Arrow McLaren -- and hasn't run and IndyCar street course race in well over four years (July 2019 at Toronto). But as the team's sporting director, he's supremely ingrained in the team's setups, operating procedures, personnel and offseason work. He's not someone they'll have to worry about competing against down the line. You can be he's as fit as anyone scheduled to be on the grid come March 10, and not to be overlooked, he's a longtime beloved figure among NTT Data executives, who serve as one of the couple primary sponsors on Malukas's No. 6 Chevy this year.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: IndyCar: David Malukas likely to miss St. Pete after surgery for dislocated wrist