Theo Pourchaire to continue fill-in role for David Malukas at Barber

On the heels of his 11th-place debut where he kept his car off the wall and gained 11 spots over 85 laps -- earning IndyCar's 'Biggest Mover' award in his first race -- reigning Formula 2 champion Theo Pourchaire will continue his fill-in role for David Malukas this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park.

Arrow McLaren's news release on the update was brief, simply noting that Pourchaire's second shot in IndyCar, along with the fact that the permanent driver of the No. 6 Chevy "continues to recover from a left wrist injury and surgery."

"Arrow McLaren will maintain their evaluation of David's health and will share updates as appropriate," it read.

Pourchaire's visit to the 2.3-mile natural terrain road course with 17 turns will be a far more physical task than his debut on the streets of Long Beach, though it's also likely to fall more in line with his several years of successful experience on the junior formula system in Europe where, since 2019, he won the ADAC F4 title, took runner-up in F3 and finished 5th, 2nd and 1st in successive seasons in F2.

Over the last decade in IndyCar, only five drivers who've made their series debuts (outside ones that came in the Indy 500) have had a better start.

Last year's Formula 2 champion Theo Pourchaire made his IndyCar debut last weekend at Long Beach in place of David Malukas and is expected to reprise his role next weekend at Barber Motorsports Park.
Last year's Formula 2 champion Theo Pourchaire made his IndyCar debut last weekend at Long Beach in place of David Malukas and is expected to reprise his role next weekend at Barber Motorsports Park.

"This championship and the racing is amazing, and I hope to be back in the future," Pourchaire said after his standout debut Sunday. "I learned quite a bit throughout the race. It's pure racing in the IndyCar series, and it is a dream come true to be competing with Arrow McLaren.

"I'm quite emotional, but it is amazing. I don't realize it yet, but I'm super happy."

The elation on Arrow McLaren's latest stand-in performance was not exclusive to the driver.

"I was super impressed with Theo and with his approach the entire weekend," team principal Gavin Ward said. "He kept his nose clean, showed some good pace and learned a lot. The smile and joy is infectious, and it's hard not to smile thinking about his debut."

Stem cell shots and sim rigs: Why David Malukas' future with Arrow McLaren is unclear

Pourchaire's debut was a bright spot on what was otherwise a puzzling weekend for Arrow McLaren, where after pacing Practice 1 on Friday, none of the team's three cars advanced out of Round 1 of qualifying less than 24 hours later. Starting 13th and 14th Sunday, Alexander Rossi and Pato O'Ward were running nose-to-tail on Lap 1 when the latter couldn't help but run into the back of the No. 7, forcing Rossi to pit immediately to fix the damage. Though the 2016 Indy 500 winner managed to fight his way back up to 10th by the race's end, O'Ward was handed an avoidable contact penalty for the incident and followed his runner-up at St. Pete with 16th.

Elsewhere in the camp, though the team insisted it was taking the status of the No. 6 Chevy race-by-race, Malukas was long eliminated from contention of running at Barber, scheduled on Wednesday to have the pins that have been stabilizing his dislocated wrist and torn tendons removed. There remains faint hope he could return for the Sonsio Grand Prix on the IMS road course May 10-11, but should he not heal up quickly in the next two weeks, his ability to hold onto his Indy 500 ride will be severely hampered.

If the team doesn't already have grounds to be able to move on from Malukas after he's set to miss his 15th, 16th and 17th days in the car since his injury, missing the Month of May entirely would only further put his future with Arrow McLaren into question.

"The team has been very supportive of David, but what's more unfortunate is his injury is much more serious than we thought initially," Ward told a small pool of reporters Saturday at Long Beach. "A big part of our focus has been trying to help him in every way in his recovery, but we've also been spending an awful lot of time to make sure we have competitive drivers in the No. 6 car. Unfortunately, it's just a lot of uncertainty right now.

"And we're having to make difficult decisions. We're doing our best to try and take care of him, but at the end of the day, we also have to look after the performance of the team."

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Theo Pourchaire will run Barber in place of David Malukas for McLaren