Théo Pourchaire completes IndyCar oval test; Gavin Ward explains David Malukas release

INDIANAPOLIS – Théo Pourchaire’s “Great American Venture” took him to the banks of the Mississippi River on Monday, where the 20-year-old from France completed his IndyCar oval test.

The youngest winner in Formula 3 and Formula 2 history easily passed the oval test at World Wide Technology Raceway and IndyCar has cleared him to compete on other oval races this season.

The Arrow McLaren driver could potentially be in play for the 108thIndianapolis 500 later this month in the No. 6 Chevrolet. David Malukas would have had that ride at the beginning of the season, but he fractured his left wrist in a mountain biking crash in February and has yet to return to the car.

When Malukas missed his fourth IndyCar Series race of the season, his contract was terminated by Arrow McLaren.

Enter Pourchaire and England’s Callum Ilott. Both drivers have shared the No. 6 Chevrolet at Arrow McLaren this season.

If Arrow McLaren choses Pourchaire for the Indy 500, he would have to complete the Rookie Orientation Program at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when the track opens for the 108th Indianapolis 500 for practice on Tuesday, May 14.

By passing his oval test at the 1.33-mile oval located in Madison, Illinois, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis on Monday, Pourchaire can also compete at other ovals on the IndyCar schedule including Iowa Speedway in July, World Wide Technology Raceway in August, The Milwaukee Mile on Labor Day weekend and Nashville Superspeedway in September.



“We just finished the day here in St. Louis and it's been a great day,” Pourchaire said after Monday’s test. “I was really happy that I was able to get back behind the wheel of the Arrow McLaren Indy car and to have this opportunity again was great.

“The first time for me on an oval was really exciting. I couldn't wait to feel the driving on an oval. I can say it now, it's really quick, really impressive. You have to be really smooth on the steering wheel, the steering inputs going back on power and be really smooth in the car.

“It feels amazing. I'm really happy. I'm really tired mentally as well because it's super quick and you don't want to do a mistake on a track like this. If you do a small mistake you can end up in the wall and we all know that ending up in the wall on an oval is really dangerous.”

Arrow McLaren sporting director Tony Kanaan and fellow driver Alexander Rossi assisted Pourchaire during the test. Rossi set up the No. 6 Chevrolet and ran a few laps to get it up to speed before turning it over to Pourchaire for the remainder of the test.

“I enjoyed it and it's been a pretty good day,” Pourchaire said. “The pace was good and, yeah, I would like to thank everybody on the team for giving me this opportunity once again and I would like to thanks, as well Tony Kanaan and Alexander Rossi for helping me today getting used to the Indy car on an oval track.

“It was a good day.”


Gavin Ward is the team principal at Arrow McLaren and oversees the three-car effort in IndyCar that includes Pato O’Ward of Mexico, Rossi and whoever the team ultimately chooses in the No. 6 Chevrolet.

At this year’s Indianapolis 500, 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson will join the team as he competes in the famed race for the first time in his career.

Ward told that releasing Malukas was a difficult decision, but it had to be made for the team to move forward.

“It was a terrible situation,” Ward said. “And I said to David, ‘There's nothing I want more than to bring him into this team and have him be a big success.’

“Definitely not an enjoyable process. process at all.

“I’m still trying to help him as much as possible and I do believe he'll get back in a car, and will race again, but at the end of the day, it's been a huge distraction for us when you're trying so hard with so much effort to try and catch the Penske’s and Ganassi’s of this world who have had to sustain huge investment and stability for so long.

“We've got work to do to catch up and it's been just a huge distraction to be finding replacement drivers and looking at, medical reports and not really knowing where we're going to land and dealing with the knockdown effect that has on our partners and our team. It's just such a distraction across the board.”

Malukas was hired by the team in early September 2023 for the ride that was supposed to go to two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Alex Palou. He had signed a contract to join McLaren in 2022, but team owner Chip Ganassi invoked the option clause in his contract to keep Palou with Chip Ganassi Racing.

Palou had a dominating season in 2023 and realized he had a great thing going with his team at CGR and broke his agreement with Arrow McLaren.

Malukas was considered Plan B and the young driver from Chicago appeared to have a career-making ride.

But his Mountain Biking crash sidelined him and Malukas never turned a wheel in competition in the Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.

“Unfortunately, at some point you've got to look after the well-being of the team,” Ward told NBC “It's difficult decisions, not enjoyable in a lot of ways, but I guess that's part of the gig, and I'm trying.

“I said this when I took this job, I told the whole team,

‘Every decision I make here, I'm going to try and make with the best interests of the team at heart, what I think is best for the team. Some of those decisions may be right, may be wrong, may be liked, may be hated. But just rest assured that's going to be my approach. I will try and make the decision, difficult or easy with the team’s best interest at heart.’

“I think this is another one, not an easy one, definitely.”


Ward said if Malukas had fractured his wrist while racing in IndyCar, the team would have stood by him “100 percent.”

But the injury came out of the cockpit in what may be considered a “risky recreational activity.”

In some professional sports, contracts often prohibit such ventures as skiing.

“We’re always looking at it,” Ward said. “There are different approaches and different teams take on that sort of stuff.

“At the end of the day, you hire a race car driver to drive your race car. And three months into this recovery still don't have clarity about when David was going to be fighting fit.

“At some point, you've got to make a decision.

“Without getting into specifics of contracts, you can either try and cover all scenarios by saying that a driver needs to be available to drive, X number of races, or you can specifically ban certain activities or what have you, and I see the different approaches out there.

“It’s been a difficult time for us, we're always looking to learn how we can be better.”

David Malukas Headshot.jpg
David Malukas Headshot.jpg

Ward hopes that Malukas will learn from this difficult decision. Ward confirmed he has certainly learned the difficulties of managing a top-level IndyCar Series team.

“I think there's always opportunities for us to figure out how to build a better race team,” Ward said. “And this is one where we definitely look at it like, ‘OK, there's a couple of things we could do better next time.’

“But also, there's some things that are out of your control, and it's just been a tremendous necessary distraction when our competitors frankly don't have that.

“We already had quite a lot of distraction last year with the Alex Palou situation.

“I would be happy not to be involved in scrambling over a driver situation for a little while to be honest.

“We've done too much of that in the last 10 months.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500