How one gym pass and one phone call took Sting Ray Robb into IndyCar

This is the wondrous way in which 2022 Indy Lights runner-up Sting Ray Robb, and not champion Linus Lundqvist, secured an IndyCar seat with Dale Coyne Racing, as told to Feeder Series.

By Jeroen Demmendaal

When the 2022 Indy Lights season was over, Sting Ray Robb was certain of one thing: whatever happened, he would not race a third season in the final feeder series under the NTT IndyCar Series. Heading into the off-season, it was going to be IndyCar or broke for the sympathetic youngster from Idaho.

After all, he had just finished runner-up behind Linus Lundqvist in the Indy Lights standings and he knew that his market stock was at its best now. A third year in Lights, which has been renamed Indy NXT for 2023 and will run on Firestone instead of Cooper tyres going forward, was fraught with risks.

Staying another year in Indy NXT would have been a bigger risk than reward because there was a tyre compound change

Sting Ray Robb on why he decided to leave Indy NXT

“Staying another year in Indy NXT would have been a bigger risk than reward because there was a tyre compound change that didn’t allow for any teams to have any data from the past,” Robb told Feeder Series this week during a media session, referring to the Firestone shift.

“Driving for Andretti last year, I was able to lean on the data from past champions that they had run, as well as past knowledge of where to brake, where to shift, all the stuff that we can go back and review and then over time find out what the best way is to grow in those areas, et cetera.

“With the new tire compound you don’t know who’s going to be the best team, who’s going to be the quickest. We saw at the Homestead test recently that the teams that were on top were not the teams that have been there in the past.

“So let’s say that I finish third or fourth in the championship rather than second or first. That lowers my stock value, so it creates an opportunity that’s not as welcoming for me to step into IndyCar because I don’t have that high of a value after that.”

An attractive proposition

Instead, Robb and his management went all-in in their search for a 2023 IndyCar seat. Feeder Series learned this winter from paddock sources that Robb had several millions in sponsorship dollars to offer, which together with his obvious driving skills made him an attractive proposition.

His name circulated early as a candidate for Ed Carpenter Racing, but that opportunity petered out fairly soon. After that, Robb was firmly on the radar at Juncos Hollinger Racing and Dale Coyne Racing, but it took a while before he secured his spot on the 2023 IndyCar grid.

“It was a busy off-season, I’ll say that right now,” Robb told Feeder Series with a broad smile. “Lots of talks between different teams. Obviously I didn’t know what I was going to be doing at the end of the year. We took a leap of faith when I stepped into the role of not having a ride and not committing to the Indy NXT series and just committing to going to IndyCar.

Close-up of Sting Ray Robb sat in the car wearing his racing helmet
Robb will race in IndyCar in 2023 with Dale Coyne Racing | Credit: Gavin Baker Photography

“There were a few teams that we were talking to, and Dale’s team was not the one that was at the top of the list because we thought they already had a driver. Obviously with Linus winning the Indy NXT championship, we assumed with the HMD association that there would be a straight shoo-in for him.”

As it turned out, that assumption was faulty, which Robb found out one fateful day when he shared a training pass with Lundqvist at their local Indianapolis gym. The Swede confessed that the HMD/Coyne seat wasn’t a certainty for him at all, and Robb didn’t miss a beat.

“That allowed me to call up my manager Peter Rossi, and he immediately called Dale and said, ‘Hey, we’re available’,” Robb explained.

“That’s when conversations began with testing options because at that point Dale had already committed to testing Marcus [Armstrong] and Daniel [Frost] at the Sebring test in the late off-season last year. Then we had a really good test right at the beginning of January, and I think that was the one that set the tone that allowed me to get in the seat.”

World Cup win

However, while Robb and his management were speaking with Coyne late last year, they were also in talks with Juncos Hollinger. A call from a journalist provided Robb with the necessary leverage to finalise negotiations and get a solid contract in place, he now reveals.

“At some point there was a journalist that called me, and he asked what I could tell him,” Robb explained. “He said, ‘I’ve been hearing rumours, it sounds promising’. I said, ‘Yes, I can’t tell you anything yet, we’re still talking to a couple teams, but it looks very, very good. I’m excited to see what we can do’. At that point, we weren’t confirmed anywhere.”

Sting Ray Robb stood next to Juncos Hollinger team founder Ricardo Juncos
Robb was in talks with Juncos Hollinger as well as Dale Coyne | Credit: Gavin Baker Photography

“He said: ‘All right, well, I’m sure when they sober up from their World Cup win that they’ll be giving you a call’. That was interesting because Argentina won the World Cup, and we all know who’s from Argentina,” Robb said, referring to Juncos Hollinger team founder Ricardo Juncos.

The next step was an obvious one: get in contact with Coyne and tell him that if he wanted to seal the deal, he should move fast. “It expedited the process, and here we are now,” Robb smiled. “I think that allowed us to put a little fire under our seats and get a move on. I think there’s been some opportunities that were miraculously created that we couldn’t have done on our own.”

A ‘momager’ on his side

Happy though he is with making his IndyCar debut, Robb said he felt for Lundqvist being left on the side-lines. Asked by another reporter during the media session whether he felt the Swede also deserves a shot in IndyCar, Robb was unequivocal.

I believe that I deserve a seat and he beat me, so there’s your answer

Sting Ray Robb on whether Lundqvist deserves an IndyCar seat

“Well, I believe that I deserve a seat and he beat me, so there’s your answer,” he said. “His on-track performance was incredible. But it takes more than just a driver to get into IndyCar. You’ve got to have people around you that supports you, and so I think that that is where my group made a difference. It wasn’t just in my performance, but it was the people around me.”

“With Peter Rossi as my manager, it gets us some experience on the contractual side of things. And then my mom, we call her my ‘momager’ because she’s my mom and my manager!” Robb laughed. “She’s had a huge role in my career because she does things that I’m unable to do as a driver. She’s able to play hardball with the contracts, et cetera, and have my best interest in mind when it comes to negotiating, along with Peter. It’s good to have them both on my side.”

Header image credit: Gavin Baker Photography


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