Things Don’t Always Work Out Perfectly

There are ten drivers who ran the entire fourteen-race Indy Lights (now known as Indy NXT) schedule last year. Two of them have secured fulltime rides in the NTT IndyCar Series as rookies for 2023 – Benjamin Pedersen and Sting Ray Robb. The notable omission from that list of two drivers is the 2022 Indy lights champion, Linus Lundqvist.

Linus Lundqvist won five of the fourteen races last season, and a total of nine podium finishes on his way to the Indy lights title last season. In year’s past, that would’ve been enough to take the $1.2 million in scholarship money and get at least three races the next season in IndyCar. That’s what Lundqvist was counting on last season; but somewhere along the way last season, Penske Entertainment decided that the Indy Lights winner should only be entitled to a $500,000 scholarship. This was a shock to many Indy Lights teams and drivers, including Lundqvist.

Pedersen and Robb were able to parlay their respective fifth and second place finishes in the standings into fulltime IndyCar rides, while it looks like Lundqvist will be a fulltime IndyCar spectator this season.

Probably the most painful driver situation for Lundqvist and his fans to look at is Sting Ray Robb. Lundqvist won the championship driving for HMD Motorsports. They are associated with Dale Coyne Racing through the No. 18 car driven by David Malukas.

It is now public knowledge that Robb and Lundqvist ran into each other at an Indianapolis gym for an off-season workout. Robb had assumed for some time that Lundqvist had the inside track for the second seat at Coyne, given the Swede’s previous relationship with HMD, when he won the championship last season. As they talked, Lundqvist was open and honest in telling Robb that he had nothing in the works with Coyne or any other IndyCar team for 2023. As soon as the workout was over, Robb made a call to his agent. Long story, short – Sting Ray Robb is now the driver of the No. 51 car at Coyne for the season, while Linus Lundqvist is still looking for work in any series.

Not many, but a few fans have said some unkind things about Robb; inferring that he stole the ride right out from underneath Lundqvist. I disagree.

From what I’ve read in a couple of articles, it sounds to me like the No. 51 ride was fair game. This wasn’t two guys vying for the affection of the same girl, while trying to abide by some code – this was purely business. IndyCar is a cutthroat business, when it comes to securing a ride. You’ve got to be ready to pounce on any possible opportunity that presents itself.

I don’t know any of the ins-and-outs of that conversation at the gym, nor do I have any clue how close Lundqvist and Robb are – but it sounds like one of two things happened. Either Lundqvist was not as aggressive as he should’ve been in pursuing the ride at Coyne, or he had already pursued it and Robb had better financial backing. Either way, Robb had every right to pursue and land the last remaining fulltime ride for the 2023 IndyCar grid.

I don’t know what Robb brought to the table. I did notice that the No 51 car carried no sponsorship at Spring Training at the Thermal Club. Does that mean the car will have no sponsorship for the season? It could, but it could also mean that they had not finalized a sponsorship package by the time Spring Training rolled around.

Apparently, other than the $500,000 in scholarship money; Lundqvist brings nothing other than a championship on his resume. He is at a disadvantage – being a Swede in the US. Sting Ray Robb brings no scholarship money for finishing second last season, but chances are – he probably has better business connections in the US, since he is an American.

I’m just guessing here. I really have no clue which driver had what to offer Dale Coyne, other than some remarks both drivers made during Content Days at the Thermal Club prior to Spring Training. But it sounds like Robb had more to offer, even though Lundqvist had a more impressive season last year.

It is unfortunate that Linus Lundqvist has no ride for the 2023 IndyCar season. Not only is a very talented driver left on the sidelines, but it is not a very good look for Indy NXT when the reigning champion cannot get a sniff at a ride. This does not provide a lot of incentive for future young drivers to participate in whatever the new name for the Road to Indy is supposed to be, when the champion of the top ladder series faces such a roadblock in his personal road to Indy.

Reports are that Lundqvist is close to landing a ride for the Indianapolis 500 this May, but nothing has been announced. I hope that’s the case. I also hope that if any driver deals with an unfortunate injury and they are not able to drive for a while – that Lundqvist will be seriously considered as a substitute. If the Indy NXT champion cannot get an IndyCar ride, how valid is the championship?

While all of this is unfortunate, it should not cast a shadow on Sting Ray Robb and his rookie IndyCar season with Dale Coyne. Things don’t always work out perfectly. Robb landed that ride fair and square, and he is deserving of a ride in the series – regardless of whether or not Linus Lundqvist had found employment. He is a good young American driver, who should pair nicely at Coyne with another good young American driver – David Malukas.

George Phillips

7 Responses to “Things Don’t Always Work Out Perfectly”

  1. Robb won the seat with money and the fanbase is behind him because he has a cool name, that is all. I will bet Racin Gardner wishes he had the social media support 27 years ago lol.

  2. Good article. I agree with Andrew above that Robb has a cool name but it is the money that robbed Linus of the seat. Let’s hope Coyne runs three cars at Indy and that Linus gets a few other races and shows well. Don’t want another Askew fiasco

  3. I had the pleasure of meeting Sting Ray and his family several years ago at Mid Ohio in the paddock long after on track activities were over . He and the family didn’t have to take the time but they did. He and they are stand up folks accordingly I doubt he did anything nefarious to gain the seat. Don’t forget he had a good year last year as well. Is it a shame Lindqvist was shorted $600k , you bet , but not Robb’s fault. I certainly don’t fault a guy who hears of a possible job opening following up on it. Coyne could always have said no. Let’s just appreciate Robb an American kid worked his way up through the IndyCar feeder system to land a full time ride and give him a chance to show us what he’s got

  4. I’m happy to see another young American in the series, and I’m looking forward to hearing Leigh Diffey say “Sting Ray Robb” in his overly-excited cadence. I feel horrible for Linus. It’s not the first time we’ve seen this sort of thing in IndyCar, but it always sucks. I think one of the current drivers in the series will be moving to the #10 car at Ganassi for ’24, so perhaps Lundqvist might get a shot filling the vacant seat that driver leaves behind. We shall see.

  5. billytheskink Says:

    I’m not sure how one could view Robb as taking the ride out from under Lundqvist if Lundqvist himself told Robb at the gym that he had nothing in the works at Coyne or elsewhere.

    In fairness to Penske Entertainment, they didn’t actually cut the Lights/NXT scholarship, what they did was not replace the $600K that Dan Andersen’s group contributed to the scholarship. Granted, that is effectively cutting the scholarship, so it is not an entirely unfair thing to say, especially as we all know now how poorly this situation was communicated to the teams and to Lundqvist. Interestingly, Penske did restore that $600K for the 2023 season, though it was split between the champion’s scholarship (now $850K) and the rest of the field… not that it does Lundqvist any good.

  6. as usual, nothing that I can add that hasn’t been said

    I thank you for blogging, George.

  7. Sting Ray did nothing wrong it was Penske that did wrong. Penske keeps penny pinching the series and also Indy NXT. The winner was promised 1.2 million and Penske cut it back to 500,000. When Penske bought the series everyone was happy but now it doesn’t seem so good. 10 year old chassis’s and cutting 14% off of IndyCircle money for INDYCAR teams. Not a good look for Penske. Maybe a new sale would be good for the series.

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