A ‘dream come true’ for Idaho’s Sting Ray Robb to compete in the Indy 500 this weekend
Picking up the phone, Sting Ray Robb immediately apologized for calling a couple of minutes late.
“I’m so sorry. It’s been crazy here,” he said, sounding almost out of breath.
He called only minutes past the arranged interview time — he was fashionably late at worst.
But for a 21-year-old man competing in one of the largest auto races in the world this weekend, while being swamped by media requests, fan events and race preparations, mere minutes can feel a lot longer.
His mindset makes sense, though, especially for one of the stars of the IndyCar Series, where mere milliseconds can mean the difference between success and failure.
Those milliseconds could make the difference this Sunday as Robb prepares to race in his first Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana.
“It’s definitely a dream come true,” Robb told the Idaho Statesman on Friday. “This is something the 5-year-old kid that used to drive go-karts around the driveway — who was me — would be proud of where we’re at today.”
From Payette to Indianapolis
Robb was born in Boise before moving to Payette as a child with his family. He started go-karting when he was 5 and began his racing career at 8.
He quickly rose through the junior karting ranks, winning the Triple Crown of International Karting Championships — the Can-Am Karting Challenge, the Challenge of the Americas and the Florida Winter Tour — by 2015, when he was 13.
His career reached new peaks earlier this year when he was announced as a full-time driver for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing for the 2023 IndyCar season. IndyCar is the highest class of open-wheel, single-seat formula racing in North America.
But his career has only continued on an upward trajectory. He sits 26th in the Indycar standings this season and qualified as one of just 33 drivers for this year’s Indy 500. He’ll start on row 11 after surviving Last Chance Qualifying last weekend, posting an average top speed of 229.549 mph.
Robb will become just the second Idahoan to compete in the Indy 500, after Davey Hamilton, whose last Indy 500 appearance came in 2011. Robb said he hadn’t interacted much with Hamilton but noted that he could still feel the support from his home state.
“We have over 100 people here at this event, just friends and family and supporters that are from Idaho,” Robb said. “And so it’s nice to be from a place where you know you have the support. Idaho will forever be my home.”
While 100 is a lot, Robb’s friends and family will just be a small part of the expected 300,000 attendees cramming into the Brickyard this weekend. That means about 1 in every 1,000 Americans will be watching Robb race in person.
“Indianapolis is the motorsport hub of the world, at least for IndyCar racing,” Robb said. “And so to be able to be even in the top 33, competing in the Indy 500 is an honor.”
Goals on and off the track
Robb is under no false impression about his chances of winning this year’s Indy 500. Bookmakers give the Idaho native a 300-1 chance of crossing the finish line first, the joint-longest odds.
“Drinking that milk in victory lane would be pretty special,” Robb said, referencing the tradition of the Indy 500 winner chugging a glass of milk.
“But we’d need a miracle to do that. And that’s not an unreasonable thing to say; there are very, very, very few drivers that have competed towards the front of the pack from where we’re starting.”
But finishing in the top 15 is certainly on his radar.
“I think that we can go forward quite a bit,” Robb said. “I think top 15 is definitely within reason, especially if we stay clean and have some good pit stops here and there.”
Regardless of the result, Robb hopes his continued success will drive auto racing popularity back in his home state. A new go-kart track recently opened in Star.
“I hope this brings some exposure to the sport through what I’m doing here,” Robb said. “Idaho is not super well-known for its motorsport industry yet, but there are a few new tracks going in. It’s cool to see that there’s a lot of motorsports coming to the area.”
Indy 500 coverage will start on Peacock at 7 a.m. Mountain Time on Sunday before switching over to NBC at 9 a.m. The race will begin at 10:45 a.m., with coverage continuing until about 2 p.m.