Thursday, July 27, 2023

INDYCAR: Loose wheel leads to Sting Ray Robb getting parked at Iowa

PHOTO: Dale Coyne Racing

by William Soquet Staff Writer

Sting Ray Robb finished last for the 3rd time in his NTT IndyCar Series career in Saturday's Hy-Vee One Step 250 at the Iowa Speedway when his #51 Biohaven Honda was disqualified after completing 152 of the race’s 200 laps.

The finish came in Robb’s 11th series start and was his first since May's Indianapolis Grand Prix, seven races ago. Across IndyCar Series history, it was the first time someone was listed as disqualified, the 221st for Honda and the fifth for the #51.

Following consecutive last-place finishes early in the season, Sting Ray Robb has continued to try and improve. An early tangle with Graham Rahal left him in the Bottom Five at the Indianapolis 500. Three straight 22nd-place finishes followed, and although he broke into the teens again at Toronto (19th), he was still four laps down at the finish. The first Iowa race was a long affair for the Dale Coyne Racing team, with the car finishing eight laps down at the finish.

Benjamin Pedersen was assessed a penalty for failing technical inspection that prohibited him from participating in qualifying for both races of the Iowa doubleheader. His A.J. Foyt Racing teammate Santino Ferrucci did not fare much better, coming in as the slowest car to take a time. Robb wasn’t too much farther ahead, earning the 26th starting spot.

While the Foyt cars were nearly side-by-side to start the race, Ferrucci quickly cleared Pedersen and passed Robb on the inside in the opening set of turns. Pedersen, in turn, set up Robb on the backstretch and also passed the young Idahoan by the end of the opening lap. He then slid to 12 seconds back after five laps, and was 18 seconds in arrears after 11 circuits. While some thought that Will Power set a blistering pace by lapping Pedersen within the opening 20 laps on Saturday, he didn’t even wait until Lap 15 on Sunday to put Robb a lap down.

Despite the early lap lost, a lead change and a slower race pace due to constant lapped traffic meant that the end of the field did not so quickly lose another lap. Ferrucci ran most of the opening segment in 25th, but lost three positions in four laps between Laps 37 and 41. He ducked down pit road not long after, falling three laps down. HE briefly cycled ahead of teammate Pedersen until new tires allowed the rookie to pass his veteran teammate again. Robb pitted on Lap 53 and was last at the end of the pit cycle, two laps down. This lasted until Lap 80 before Josef Newgarden put another lap on Robb, admirable for a driver who lost his first lap in only 13 laps of green flag action.

Soon after, Pedersen tried a large undercut to kick off the second round of pit stops. Just as he was exiting the pit lane, however, Agustin Canapino brushed the wall on the outside of Turn 2, drawing a caution. He did not lose any laps as a result of the incident.

While all lapped cars were able to take advantage of the wave-around during the caution, that still left Pedersen on his own lap for the Lap 106 restart, three laps down. After pitting and restarting 17th, Canapino dropped through the remainder of the lead lap cars in quick succession and brought his car to pit road on Lap 113. Mechanical damage the team missed with a quick once-over caused the #78 to spend ten laps on pit road. He returned to the track in the middle of the run in last place. After Pedersen once again made a massive undercut stop at Lap 128, he was six laps down, still four ahead of Canapino.

Takuma Sato brushed the wall on Lap 142 and promptly pitted right before the window in the next round of stop. He wound up spending 11 laps on pit road fixing his issues, similar to Canapino, and dropped to last.

Robb cycled as high up as 21st before he hit pit road on Lap 153. His left rear tire changer did not get the wheel nut on the new tire that went on the car before Robb was released and immediately held his hand up at the end of the stop to signify that something was not right. Robb tried to limp his car around the track to get it back to pit road, but the wheel lurched off the car in Turn 3. The wheel narrowly missed race leader Newgarden, Conor Daly, Alexander Rossi and others as it climbed the banking. This conjured up images of this year’s Indianapolis 500, when Kyle Kirkwood’s wheel sheared off and flew outside the retaining fence. This time, the tire arrived back on pit road on the back of a safety truck.

Despite the loss of his wheel, Robb was able to get his car back to his pit stall and the team immediately bolted on a replacement, ready to send him back out. However, the car was held in the box by an IndyCar official on pit road, and the car was eventually let off the jack stand. By the time the green flag flew at the end of the caution period, race control made their call: the 51 car was ineligible to compete in the rest of the race due to “causing a dangerous situation.” The official results classified this as a disqualification.

Pedersen also failed to finish the race due to disqualification. He was parked by race control on Lap 205, citing a failure “to participate at a competitive speed.” Pedersen had not lost any laps on pace in a while before the call, and was eight laps down at the time. While they were both forced out for different reasons, both Robb and Pedersen were out as "disqualified."

Canapino and Sato, hampered by their brushes with the wall, finished 26th and 25th. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Ryan Hunter-Reay, who hit the wall with ten laps to go and failed to finish the race.

*Robb is the first last-place driver classified as “disqualified”, although one last-place finisher was listed as “parked” – Dave Kudrave in the very first Indy Racing League race at Walt Disney World Speedway on January 27, 1996.
*Honda has clinched the 2023 LASTCAR IndyCar Series Manufacturers Championship, holding a six-race lead over Chevrolet with only five races to go.
*Robb is the first rookie to finish last three times in his debut season since Colton Herta did so in 2019. Herta finished last at Barber, Long Beach and the Indianapolis 500. He has not finished last since then.

28) #51-Sting Ray Robb / 152 laps / disqualified
27) #55-Benjamin Pedersen / 193 laps / disqualified
26) #78-Agustin Canapino / 236 laps / running
25) #11-Takuma Sato / 237 laps / running
24) #20-Ryan Hunter-Reay / 237 laps / crash

1st) Honda (9)
2nd) Chevrolet (3)

1st) Dale Coyne Racing (4)
2nd) Chip Ganassi Racing (3)
3rd) A.J. Foyt Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (2)
4th) Juncos Hollinger Racing (1)


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