Robb: The Climb To The Top
What does two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Will Power have in common with 21-year-old series newcomer Sting Ray Robb?
The two drivers have arguably the most raceresque names in motorsports.
For Robb, it all began when his parents, who are avid Corvette fans, named him after the “Sting Ray.”
From that moment, Sting Ray Robb was destined to drive race cars.
“Along with that, I grew up at Corvette club meetings, drag races, autocross events back in Idaho,” Robb told SPEED SPORT. “My parents were just hobbyists who loved cars and wanted to go fast, just like I grew up to do.”
Sting Ray Robb watches qualifying from his pit box. (IndyCar photo)
There was another early indicator that Robb was destined for a career in motorsports.
“I actually took my first steps at a Corvette club meeting, which is kind of funny,” Robb said. “That was all I knew until the age of about 5.”
With cars on his mind, it was only a matter of time before racing became the next step.
That moment clicked for Robb as a preschooler while watching one of the world’s most successful action-sports athletes.
“When I was around 4 years old, I watched Travis Pastrana jump a go-kart into a foam pit,” Robb recalled. “When I saw that, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s what I want to do.’”
Robb’s motorsports journey began when he received his first go-kart on his fifth birthday.
“We went to races locally in Star, Idaho,” Robb recalled. “Then, pretty soon we were going to Tri-Cities, Washington, Salt Lake City. Vancouver, Canada, was a place that we went to shortly after that.”
Before blinking, Robb became fully immersed in go-karting, traveling the world and pursuing every opportunity.
“By the time I was 9 years old, we’d already been traveling to Italy and back, so it was a pretty quick progression in the early stages of my karting career,” Robb explained. “I think that my parents just saw in me a level of focus that maybe some of the other kids didn’t have, and desire to be there.
“That’s not to say I was over serious. I was playing football in between go-kart races. But at the same time, we were gone 42 weekends a year in my early karting career, which is quite a bit when you’re a young kid playing sports and going to school and doing all that.”
Robb’s natural ability showed out in go-karts, as he earned multiple championships.
In 2015, Robb captured the Triple Crown in the Canadian-American Karting Challenge, where he topped the West Coast, Florida-Atlantic Tour and the East Coast series.
One year later, with a stacked karting résumé, Robb began the transition to cars.
“I did the Skip Barber Karts to Car shootout and got the Bryan Herta scholarship, so I could keep doing that for the offseason,” Robb said. “So I was doing Skip Barber and karting at the same time and got myself into some dirt cars, did some dirt modifieds.
“I did the Bondurant Racing School in Corvettes. Then I did open-wheel racing, obviously, with Skip Barber. … Also, I did the ARCA West Series.
“I wanted to do as many things as possible, that way I could figure out what direction I wanted to take,” Robb continued. “Baseball, basketball, all those other sports, they have a straight ladder system to whatever that top level is. But in racing, we always describe it as shattered glass.
“You can start here and then go this way, or that way or this way or that way, and then come back and do this and then go back over here,” Robb added. “There’s no straight path to any top level of motorsports. So we had to figure out first off, ‘What was I going to enjoy the most? What was I going to want to spend my time in?’”
Open-wheel racing was Robb’s choice, but his parents had taken him as far as they could financially and he needed backing to continue his journey.
“That’s when Pieter Rossi, my manager, stepped on board with the investment program that we put in place to fund my racing career,” Robb said.
Rossi, the father of 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi, became Robb’s manager. From there, Robb started his Road to Indy climb, beginning with the Pro Mazda Championship (now USF Pro 2000).
Robb remained in the USF Pro 2000 Championship for four years, skipping the USF 2000 Championship due to increased costs with a new race car in the series.
Looking back, Robb believes the lower series may have been beneficial to his development.
Sting Ray Robb in the cockpit of his Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Indy car. (IndyCar photo)
“Hindsight being 20-20, I probably regret that a little bit, because I wasn’t ready for it,” Robb said. “I wish I would have started in that lower level and worked on race craft and developing those basic skills and then work my way up.
“But I got thrown into the deep end and then kind of had to learn on the fly and got set back a couple of years because of it.”
Robb adjusted, scoring the USF Pro 2000 title with Juncos Racing in the team’s second year of competition.
“I didn’t have a lot to build off of. But the one year that we did build from was 2019, and then 2020, won the championship. So it was really good,” Robb said.
A step up to Indy NXT (formerly Indy Lights) was on deck for Robb with Juncos Racing. A dismal season during his rookie campaign brought a new opportunity with one of the top teams in open-wheel racing — Andretti Autosport.
Aboard the No. 2 car for Andretti, 2022 was Robb’s breakout season. Eight podiums, along with a victory at California’s WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, boosted the 21-year-old’s stock significantly.
“We had really good consistency,” Robb said. “I think larger in part was to the team that I was with. Andretti knew what they were doing.”
With a successful Indy NXT campaign behind him, Robb began searching for options at the highest level of American open-wheel racing.
Less than two months before the season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla., a deal was struck for Robb to drive Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 Honda for the full NTT IndyCar Series slate.
In his IndyCar Series debut during the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Robb was caught up in a lap-one accident but recovered to finish 16th.
Robb believes one thing will be crucial in his development as an Indy car driver.
“I think ultimate pace. IndyCar is a very dynamic sport, because there’s a lot going on behind the scenes,” Robb said. “Not only off the track, but on track is what I mean. You have to have really good race craft, get lucky, make the right strategy calls, have good pit stops, have good in and out laps and have a good team around you.
“The hardest thing to nail down is that ultimate pace I feel like, at least currently. I think that’s going to come with a little bit seat time and working with the team. But you look at St. Pete, there were I think eight drivers within a couple tenths of a second.
“So, you got to break into that,” Robb continued. “Even then you’re still not guaranteed a higher position. I think for the nearest future, our focus is going to be getting quicker, and getting there quicker.”
With a tight field of 27 cars all within a narrow margin, Robb knows the importance of finding speed. Now, it’s all about finding that solid pace.
“I’m just going to keep learning and, hopefully, that ultimate pace, that light switch comes on shortly,” he said. “That’s like the hardest thing I feel like. Fighting for that last one percent of speed that the other guys have been working on for the last 15 years, some of them.
“It’s hard to make up for that time, but it’s important.”