Tuesday, May 16, 2023

INDYCAR: Robb first back-to-back last-placer since 2021

PHOTO: Luis Torres, @TheLTFiles

by William Soquet
LASTCAR.info Staff Writer

Sting Ray Robb finished last for the 2nd time in his NTT IndyCar Series career in Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course when his #51 Biohaven Honda retired from contact after completing 1 of the race’s 85 laps.

The finish was his second consecutive and came in Robb’s fifth career NTT IndyCar Series start. In IndyCar Series history, it was the 201st due to contact, the 216th for Honda and the fourth for the #51.

Between his last-place finish at Barber and the opening of on-track activities at Indy, Robb had a quiet two weeks. As part of the Indy 500 kickoff in Indianapolis, Robb was present at the ceremonies and told local television station WISH that he marveled at how invested the city of Indianapolis was in the 500.

In a condensed two-day race weekend, Robb was one of the most active participants. During first practice, the rookie completed 26 laps, fourth-most of all drivers. He wound up 20th on the overall speed charts, right behind teammate David Malukas. In second practice, Robb ran 19 laps, about in line with most of the other competitors. Robb landed in Group 2 for qualifying and ran a fast lap of 1:10.27, good for 11th in the group and a 22nd overall starting spot.

Starting last on Saturday was Santino Ferrucci. He entered the weekend 22nd in points, just ahead of fourth-place starter Jack Harvey. Ferrucci was 24th in first practice and 25th in second practice before running the slowest time in Group 1 during qualifying. It almost turned out differently: the gap between Ferrucci and Augustin Canapino was only .04 seconds.

While A.J. Foyt's team held last place for a while at the beginning of the race, it was not with Ferrucci. Before the field took the green flag, Benjamin Pedersen hit pit road, experiencing radio issues. He remained on pit road for the green flag and the events that quickly followed.

The inside line got a big jump on the start, and Ferrucci was a part of that, getting past Helio Castroneves as the field went up through the gears. Castroneves held last on track for a few corners, as Graham Rahal made contact with Kyle Kirkwood in the first corner. A flat tire was the result of that contact, and Rahal nursed his machine around the track until he could pit at the end of the first lap.

While Rahal was making his pit stop, the field flew through the middle portions of the track. Robb was battling with Romain Grosjean, who started 18th. As the two went down into Turn 7, a hard left-hander, both aggressively attacked the braking zone. Directly ahead of the pair was Robb’s Dale Coyne Racing teammate Malukas, who started on the outside lane and turned in to the apex of the corner. Robb made contact with the left-rear tire of Malukas, spinning the #18 car around. The #51 was turning into the corner when the contact was made, and the car skidded across the racing surface before stopping in the grass on the outside of the turn.

Both cars retired from the race as a result of the contact. The camber on Robb’s front axle was noticeably off, and he was credited with only one lap completed. On the official scoresheet, Malukas was credited with a second lap before he exited the race.

At that point in time, however, Robb and Malukas were credited with 26th and 25th, respectively. Pedersen was still in the pits, his crew working to fix the radio issues that rendered the car unable to start the race on track. However, the #55 car quietly entered the track during the caution for the incident involving Robb and Malukas and quickly moved ahead of the two cars on the leaderboard, dropping Robb to last.

Simon Pagenaud was the only other car that retired from the race. His Meyer Shank Racing car experienced a nut failure right after the final pit stop, coming to rest near the end of pit road in a pit box. Pedersen and Ferrucci filled out the Bottom Five, six and five laps down respectively.

*Robb is the first back-to-back last-place finisher in IndyCar since Conor Daly finished last at Texas and the Indy Grand Prix in 2021, driving for Carlin and Ed Carpenter Racing.
*This is the first time a last-place finisher has completed 1 lap since James Hinchcliffe completed a single lap at Portland in 2021.
*After Chevrolet cars finished last in the final four races of 2022 and the opening race of 2023, Honda cars have now finished last in four straight races.

27) #51-Sting Ray Robb / 1 lap / crash
26) #18-David Malukas / 2 laps / crash
25) #60-Simon Pagenaud / 58 laps / stalled
24) #55-Benjamin Pedersen / 79 laps / running
23) #14-Santino Ferrucci / 80 laps / running

1st) Chip Ganassi Racing, Dale Coyne Racing (2)
2nd) A.J. Foyt Racing (1)

1st) Honda (4)
2nd) Chevrolet (1)


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