Right away, the name Sting Ray Robb is an eye catcher. But there’s more to the man with one of motorsports’ amazing names.
The 21-year-old racer from Idaho was tabbed to drive the No. 51 Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing on Jan. 18. The announcement broke the trend of Coyne hiring drivers with a Formula One background to pilot the second entry, as the No. 51 car had previously been driven by Romain Grosjean (2021) and Takuma Sato (2022).
Robb told The Podium Finish in an exclusive interview that the two-car organization bringing on a Road to Indy alumnus speaks volumes about the quality of racers the Indy system brings to the table.
“The fact that we’ve seen so many rookies do so well in previous years. You look at guys like Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward, that are stepping up from the Road to Indy into IndyCar and doing that well. David Malukas, I think will be another example of that,” said Robb.
“He had such a good season last year. The fact that they’re willing to take a chance on a young driver like myself, I think speaks highly of the progression of the series has made to prepare drivers for that next level. But it’s kind of cool, David and I will be the two youngest drivers on the field, so it’ll be interesting to see how we can stack up against the veterans.”
Part of Robb’s excitement about becoming a full-time INDYCAR driver is being teammates with fellow 21-year-old Malukas.
“I’m excited. I mean, I think that I’m in a good place being with Dale Coyne Racing, Rick Ware Racing. Obviously, they had a good season last year with David as a rookie and he had some good finishes,” Robb explained. “Especially as a rookie, you don’t have too high expectations of what we can do.
“But the fact that he was able to finish on the podium there at Gateway was pretty impressive. And I think that would be on the table for myself. I think they have a good enough car and I’ve been working on my skills this off-season as well to try and get better and be ready for the season.”
Furthermore, Robb joining the team completed the final piece of the NTT IndyCar Series puzzle as 27 full-time entries will partake on the 17-race championship trail. Robb will be one of four rookies on the grid, joining fellow Indy NXT alumnus Benjamin Pedersen, two-time TC2000 champion Agustín Canapino and four-time Formula 2 winner Marcus Armstrong.
With the field stacked with racers young and young at heart, Robb is eager of racing against several drivers he’s looked up to, but also those who’ve provided a spark to the competition in recent memory.
“There’s been several drivers that I’ve always looked up to as I’ve come up through the ranks. Josef Newgarden being one, Scott Dixon being one. Rossi of course, just because I’ve known him and I feel like I can beat him maybe on the right day. But I mean more recently some of the most exciting drivers on the grid I think have been Scott McLaughlin and Rinus VeeKay,” said Robb.
“Those are all guys that I look forward to racing against. I think it’s just because the field is so stacked with drivers and anyone can win on any given weekend. So I think it’ll be fun to have some rivalries in there. But definitely being able to race champions in the industry and Indy 500 winners will be exciting.”
Before taking his first laps with the team, Robb’s road to the sport’s top level is rather unique. He spent the last two seasons competing in Indy NXT (formerly known as Indy Lights), driving for Juncos Racing and Andretti Autosport. With the latter organization, Robb finished runner-up in points to Linus Lundqvist.
During the 14-round odyssey, he racked up eight podium finishes, including an elusive victory in the first race at Laguna Seca. Despite scoring the victory on the final race weekend of the tour, Robb discussed that while a win in Monterey was special, there were plenty of chances for him to reach the top step of the podium multiple times.
“I think Road America would’ve been another opportunity, but I mean that race was a bit chaotic with the red flag in the middle and the delayed restart,” Robb commented. “There was other opportunities available for us to go out there and have a weekend like we had at Laguna, but everything just came together.
“That’s the thing with racing is that in order to win you have to have all the right variables under control and then still get lucky. It just worked out well that I was able to win there at Laguna. That’s a track that I’ve historically done well at and I’ve really enjoyed. I mean the overall layout is pretty impressive with The Corkscrew and everything, so it makes it for a fun race.”
For a period of time, Robb tried different racing disciplines, including a brief cup of coffee in stock car racing. In 2016 and 2018, Robb made a total four starts in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West (now known as ARCA West). Robb made two starts apiece at Utah Motorsports Campus and Meridian Speedway in Boise.
The last of his four starts was in the 2018 NAPA Auto Parts Idaho 208 at Meridian, a notable race as Hailie Deegan became the first woman to win a NASCAR touring race since Shawna Robinson in 1989. Further down the running order, Robb drove the No. 36 Chevrolet for Patriot Motorsports Group, finishing a career-best 10th out of the 15-car field.
“That was kind of my transition year from karts to cars. I wanted to do everything. I wanted to make sure that what I committed to was what I wanted to do forever. I did go-kart racing in Europe. I did the open-wheel series here in the U.S. I did the K&N West Series. I did dirt car racing. I did a little bit of sports cars as well, like the Bondurant driving school,” Robb said.
“I wanted to figure out which sort of car fit my driving style, which one did I find the most interesting. So that’s why I selected open wheel racings just because it felt the most similar to what I’ve been doing in go-karts. But the NASCAR opportunity came about just because it was a local event thing in Idaho at Meridian Speedway and it was a good opportunity. We took it and tried it out and saw what it’s all about.”
With open-wheel racing being his true calling, the Idahoan’s quest for Indy glory progressively blossomed with one of the highlights being an Indy Pro 2000 championship in 2020 with Juncos. Now, Robb will embark on tracks he’s done well in the past like Road America, but also INDYCAR’s landmark venues such as Long Beach and the Indianapolis 500. Those two aforementioned venues are the ones Robb is looking forward to the most as an INDYCAR rookie.
“(The Indy 500) is a bucket list race I think, for just about any driver. I’m definitely looking forward to that in May, but also Long Beach,” said Robb. “Long Beach is a track that I’ve looked at for a long time and admired. And just because it’s West Coast, you know, being a West Coast kid a little bit, I like all the races out there and Long Beach just got such a history of racing there. It’s kind of exciting to be able to go and experience that and be a driver in the field.”
Success has come Robb’s way thus far and part of it comes down to the group of folks that has guided his career path. That consists of his manager, Pieter Rossi (Alexander Rossi’s father), his family and his Christian beliefs. Each parlays a key part of Robb’s personality through the highs and lows as confidence, work ethic, and at the end of the day, having fun comes a long way.
“My faith has been a big part of who I am and my success and I think that I attribute a lot of my mental capacity to that. I think that having a faith and believing in something allows me to take a load off when I need to,” Robb explained. “It gives me something to focus on and lean on in those difficult days. You know, racing I always say has the highest of highs and lowest of lows.
“Unless you have something to keep you humble or confident in the middle of all that, your identity can’t be tied to just the results. So, that’s why my faith is so important to me because I know that my name doesn’t lie in that and then it lies in something greater.”
If put in a position of which role he’d rather be between the turtle and hare, he choose the turtle. He decided this based on what advice he would give to young and aspiring competitors that may want to pursue open-wheel racing. Simply put, consistency and having fun is what matters most.
“If you’re consistent in everything that you’re doing, creating habits, you’re gonna get a lot further than you know. A short burst of the hardest work that you can possibly give at different times in your life. Being consistent allows you to grow small amounts over time and you’re gonna make bigger leaps,” Robb elaborated.
“It’s more like the turtle and the hare, right? I’d rather be the turtle that gets there at the end of the race than the hare that quits before you finally finish. And then having fun. Obviously, passion’s a big part of why we do what we do. And I think without that passion, you’re not gonna be able to go through those hardships, go through those difficult times that you’re going to have to go to.
“If you’re having fun, you’re doing something right. But don’t forget on the bad days that it is fun. This is what you enjoy, this is the passion that you have. So don’t give it up.”
Special thanks to Sting Ray Robb for spending time with The Podium Finish. Another thank you to Karina Redmond of Dale Coyne Racing for making this latest feature possible. You can keep track of Robb on his Twitter and Instagram accounts and here on TPF.
The full interview with Robb is available below.