IndyCar rookie Sting Ray Robb says Linus Lundqvist, who beat him to last year’s Indy Nxt title, ‘deserves a seat’ in the series.
Lundqvist looks set to become the first Indy Nxt champion since Jean-Karl Vernay 2010 to not graduate into professional single-seater racing the following year, despite winning the title with HMD Motorsports that co-runs an IndyCar operation.
Robb, who raced for Andretti Autosport in Indy Nxt and steps up to IndyCar in the Dale Coyne Racing car co-run by HMD, explained on IndyCar’s pre-season ‘Content Day’ how becoming aware of Lundqvist’s difficulties in stepping up led him to his seat after “lots of talks between different teams”.
“There was 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,” Robb revealed.
“With Linus winning the Indy Nxt championship, we assumed with the HMD association there that there would be a straight shoe-in for him. But I actually was at PitFit Training one day with Linus and discovered that was not the case. That created an opportunity for us that allowed me to call up my manager, Peter Rossi [McLaren IndyCar driver Alexander’s father], and get him on the phone, and he immediately called Dale and said ‘hey, we’re available’.
“I think there was a mutual understanding of what availability was for either one of us. That’s when conversations began with testing options, because at that point he had already committed to testing Marcus [Armstrong] in the car and Danial [Frost] in the car at the Sebring test in the late off-season last year.
“Then we had a really good test in 2023 right at the beginning of January, and I think that was kind of the one that set the tone that allowed me to get in the seat.”
Robb had “assumed Linus was locked into the seat” and even when he started talking with DCR he was “also still talking to another team”.
A call with a journalist led to Robb learning that there was also a team with Argentinian connections (assumed to be Juncos Hollinger Racing) interested in starting talks, and with that as a negotiating tool he “had a conversation with Dale after that, and it expedited the process, and here we are now”.
He commented further on Lundqvist’s IndyCar ambitions, saying: “Well, I believe that I deserve a seat and he beat me, so there’s your answer.”
“Linus does deserve a seat. His on-track performance was incredible. But it takes more than just a driver to get into IndyCar. You’ve got to have a village 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. I feel bad for Linus because as a driver I can feel that way towards him because I could be in that seat if I didn’t have those same people around me.”