Everything you need to know for Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona

1 Comment

Another major “wild card” opportunity for drivers to break into the Chase for the Sprint Cup will come this Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway.

The Coke Zero 400 is critical for everyone sporting a zero in the win column. For those that are high enough in the points standings to currently have spots on the Chase Grid, a victory puts that “points alone” scenario for making the post-season to rest.

But for those outside of the Top 16 cutoff, time is growing short and they may be feeling a little desperation about getting that win which will put them into the Chase. But they also know that restrictor-plate races can yield surprising victors.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here are all the notes and numbers to keep in mind going into Round 18 of the 2014 Sprint Cup championship…

DAYTONA-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Clint Bowyer (No. 15 RK Motors Charlotte Toyota)
· Three top fives, seven top 10s
· Average finish of 16.4
· Average Running Position of 17.3, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 83.5, ninth-best
· 77 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 189.524 mph, fourth-fastest

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· 10 top fives, 13 top 10s
· Average finish of 18.0
· Average Running Position of 16.1, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 88.9, sixth-best
· 70 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most
· 3,692 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
· 2,072 Laps in the Top 15 (60.3%), fifth-most
· 2,585 Quality Passes, third-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota)
· One win, five top fives, six top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 18.6
· Series-best Average Running Position of 12.6
· Series-best Driver Rating of 97.1
· 84 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· 3,851 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 189.532 mph, second-fastest
· Series-high 2,413 Laps in the Top 15 (70.2%)
· Series-high 2,743 Quality Passes

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet)
· Three wins, 11 top fives, 17 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 13.4
· Average Running Position of 14.0, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 92.0, third-best
· 85 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· 4,036 Green Flag Passes, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 189.528 mph, third-fastest
· 2,245 Laps in the Top 15 (65.3%), second-most
· 2,710 Quality Passes, second-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Subway Ford)
· Four top fives, eight top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 18.1
· Average Running Position of 17.6, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 82.1, 12th-best
· 72 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· 4,026 Green Flag Passes, third-most
· 1,815 Laps in the Top 15 (52.8%), eighth-most
· 2,549 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Pepsi Real Sugar Chevrolet)
· Six wins, 13 top fives, 20 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 16.3
· Average Running Position of 14.5, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 88.0, seventh-best
· 3,664 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most
· 2,030 Laps in the Top 15 (59.1%), sixth-most
· 2,333 Quality Passes, eighth-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota)
· Three top fives, three top 10s
· Average finish of 20.4
· Average Running Position of 16.1, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 85.5, eighth-best
· 79 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 189.471 mph, eighth-fastest

Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser Folds Of Honor Chevrolet)
· Two wins, six top fives, 11 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.8
· Driver Rating of 82.4, 11th-best
· Series-high 87 Fastest Laps Run
· 3,578 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 189.509 mph, sixth-fastest
· 1,990 Quality Passes, 12th-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Patriotic Chevrolet)
· Three wins, nine top fives, 12 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 17.0
· Average Running Position of 13.9, third-best
· Driver Rating of 89.0, fifth-best
· 2,194 Laps in the Top 15 (63.8%), fourth-most
· 2,372 Quality Passes, seventh-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Home Depot Husky Toyota)
· Two wins, six top fives, 14 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 17.1
· Average Running Position of 13.8, second-best
· Driver Rating of 92.9, second-best
· 77 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· 3,566 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most
· 2,228 Laps in the Top 15 (64.8%), third-most
· 2,453 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Bass Pro Shops / Ducks Unlimited Chevrolet)
· Four wins, nine top fives, 14 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 17.1
· Average Running Position of 16.5, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 90.0, fourth-best
· 76 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
· 1,898 Laps in the Top 15 (55.2%), seventh-most

source:

Chase Outlook (Following Kentucky)
source:

Daytona International Speedway Data
Season Race #: 18 of 36 (07-05-14)
Track Size: 2.5-mile
Banking/Turns 1 & 2: 31 degrees
Banking/Turns 3 & 4: 31 degrees
Banking/Straights: 3 degrees
Banking/Tri-Oval: 18 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 3,800 feet
Backstretch Length: 3,000 feet
Race Length: 160 laps / 400 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Daytona
Kyle Busch…………………………… 97.1
Matt Kenseth………………………… 92.9
Dale Earnhardt Jr…………………… 92.0
Tony Stewart…………………………. 90.0
Jimmie Johnson…………………….. 89.0
Kurt Busch……………………………. 88.9
Jeff Gordon………………………….. 88.0
Denny Hamlin……………………….. 85.5
Clint Bowyer…………………………. 83.5
Kevin Harvick………………………… 83.1
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2014 races (19 total) among active drivers at Daytona International Speedway.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 Coors Light pole winner: Kyle Busch, Toyota, 193.723 mph, 46.458 secs, 07-05-13
2013 race winner: Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 154.313 mph, (02:36:20), 07-06-13
Track qualifying record (July race): Cale Yarborough, Ford, 203.519 mph, 44.222 secs, 07-02-86
Track race record (July race): Bobby Allison, Mercury, 173.473 mph, (02:18:21), 07-04-80

Daytona History
· Groundbreaking for Daytona International Speedway was Nov. 25, 1957. The soil underneath the banked corners was dug from the infield of the track and the hole filled with water. It is now known as Lake Lloyd.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona was a 100-mile qualifying race for the Daytona 500 on Feb. 20, 1959 – won by Bob Welborn.
· The first summer race at Daytona International Speedway was held on July 4, 1959 – won by Fireball Roberts (140.581 mph).
· NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty won his 200th career race on July 4, 1984 at Daytona.
· Lights were installed in the spring of 1998. However, the July race was delayed until October that year due to thick smoke from wildfires. The second Daytona race has been held under the lights ever since.
· The track underwent a repave in 2010.

Daytona Notebook
· There have been 134 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Daytona International Speedway since the track hosted its first race in 1959: 56 have been 500 miles, 51 were 400 miles and four 250 miles. There were also 23 qualifier races that were point races.
· 438 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series July race at Daytona International Speedway; 275 in more than one.
· Richard Petty leads the series in July race starts at Daytona with 32. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 21 starts.
· Fireball Roberts won the inaugural Coors Light pole for the July race at Daytona in 1959 with a speed of 144.997 mph.
· 37 drivers have Coors Light poles at Daytona for the July event, led by NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough with eight. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in July race poles, with two. Gordon started first in 2007 due to qualifying being cancelled as well.
· Three drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles for the July race at Daytona: Cale Yarborough (1970-’71; 1980-’81, 1983-’84), Sterling Marlin (1991-’92) and Dale Earnhardt (1994-’95).
· Youngest Daytona pole winner: Austin Dillon (02/23/2014 – 23 years, 9 months, 27 days).
· Oldest Daytona pole winner: Mark Martin (07/02/2011 – 52 years, 5 months, 23 days).
· 34 different drivers have won the July race at Daytona International Speedway, led by NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson with five wins. Tony Stewart leads all active drivers with four; followed by Jeff Gordon with three.
· Five drivers have posted consecutive wins in the July race at Daytona International Speedway, including three consecutive by David Pearson (1972 – 1974). Tony Stewart (2005-’06)is the only active driver to win consecutive July races at Daytona.
· Youngest Daytona winner: Trevor Bayne (02/20/2011 – 20 years, 0 months, 1 day).
· Oldest Daytona winner: Bobby Allison (02/14/1988 – 50 years, 5 months, 23 days).
· The Wood Brothershave the most wins at Daytona in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 15; followed by Hendrick Motorsports with 13.
· Seven different manufacturers have won the July NSCS race at Daytona; led by Chevrolet with 18 victories; followed by Ford with 16.
· A driver has swept both races (Daytona 500 and the July race) at Daytona five times: Fireball Roberts – 1962 (Daytona 500, Firecracker 250); Cale Yarborough – 1968 (Daytona 500, Firecracker 400); Lee Roy Yarborough – 1969 (Daytona 500, Firecracker 400); Bobby Allison – 1982 (Daytona 500, Firecracker 400); and Jimmie Johnson – 2013 (Daytona 500, Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola).
· Eight of the 55 (14.5%) July NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Daytona have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Kevin Harvick in 2010.
· The Coors Light pole is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (eight) than any other starting position in the July race at Daytona International Speedway.
· 15 of the 55 (27.2%) July NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Daytona have been won from the front row: eight from the pole and seven from second-place.
· 41 of the 55 (74.5%) July NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Daytona have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· Four of the 55 (7.2%) July NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Daytona have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Daytona was 42nd, by Tony Stewart in the 2012 July race.
· Buddy Baker leads the series in runner-up finishes in the July race at Daytona with five; followed by Richard Petty and Sterling Marlin with four. Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch lead all active drivers with two each.
· NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson leads the series in top-five finishes in the July race at Daytona with 13; followed by Richard Petty with 12. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with seven.
· David Pearson leads the series in top-10 finishes in the July race at Daytona with 19; followed by Dale Earnhardt with 18. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 11.
· Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Daytona with a 10.440.
· Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Daytona with a 13.379.
· Greg Biffle won the July race at Daytona in his first appearance.
· Joe Nemechek leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Daytona without visiting Victory Lane at 38.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Daytona International Speedway for the July race was the July 7, 2007 race won by Jamie McMurray over Kyle Busch with a MOV of 0.005 second.
· Four of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series July races have resulted with a green-white-checkered finish at Daytona International Speedway (Scheduled No. of Laps/Actual No. of Laps): 2008 (160/162), 2010 (160/166), 2011 (160/170) and 2013 (160/161).
· Only one of the 55 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series July races at Daytona International Speedway has been shortened due to weather conditions – July 6, 1996 – the race was called on Lap 117, 43 circuits shy of the 160 scheduled laps.
· Qualifying for the July race has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Daytona International Speedway three times: 2007, 2009, and 2010.
· Four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series active drivers have made their first career start at Daytona International Speedway, though none were during the July race: Tony Stewart (2/14/99), Casey Mears (2/16/03), Kasey Kahne (2/15/04), and Danica Patrick (2/27/12).
· Six active drivers have posted their first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Daytona International Speedway: Greg Biffle (2/15/04), Kevin Harvick (7/6/02), Jimmie Johnson (2/17/02), Paul Menard (7/5/08), Danica Patrick (2/24/13) and Austin Dillon (2/23/2014).
· Four active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have posted their first career win at Daytona International Speedway; two were during the July race: Trevor Bayne (2/20/11), Greg Biffle (7/5/03), David Ragan (7/2/11) and Michael Waltrip (2/18/01).
· Tony Stewart leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Daytona with 665 laps led in 31 starts. Stewart also leads the series among active drivers in laps led in the July race at Daytona with 366; followed by Jeff Gordon with 316 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. with 243.
· Six female drivers have competed in the July event at Daytona International Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Danica Patrick, Janet Guthrie, Christine Beckers, Lella Lombardi, Patty Moise and Shawna Robinson. Below they are ordered by best finish:
source:

NASCAR in Florida
· There have been 175 NASCAR Sprint Cup races among eight tracks in the state of Florida.
· The first NASCAR premiere series race in the state of Florida was held at the Daytona Beach & Road Course in 7/10/1949. The 40 lap event was by won Red Byron (Oldsmobile, 80.883 mph).
source:
· 173 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Florida; 10 of the 173 (5.7%) have recorded at least one victory in NASCAR national series competition.
· Of the seven Florida native drivers who have won in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, only Fireball Roberts and LeeRoy Yarborough have won the July race at Daytona International Speedway.
source:

IndyCar Preseason, Day 1: Simon Pagenaud on why he likes teasing Josef Newgarden

Newgarden Pagenaud feud
Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment
0 Comments

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — A roundup of nuggets from the opening day of preseason IndyCar Content Days for media that lead into two days of preseason testing Thursday and Friday at The Thermal Club, starting with a playful “feud” between former teammates Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud:

After making a point to needle Newgarden during the Rolex 24 at Daytona (when he was warned for being deemed to have caused a spin by the car driven by Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), Pagenaud laughed about why he likes poking at his ex-teammate at Team Penske.

“I just love to press the button with Josef,” Pagenaud said. “I just love it. I’m being very open about it. I think he knows it, too. It’s funny to see him unsettled a little bit. I like when he gets aggressive. I don’t know why. It’s funny.”

They scrapped a few times as Penske teammates. Pagenaud notably was hot after a 2017 incident at Gateway during Newgarden’s first season with the team, but he later backtracked and blamed it on his French blood.

Pagenaud says all is good between now – though he also admits with a devilish grin that he’s taking advantage of the freedom from leaving Penske last year.

“Absolutely, yeah. I couldn’t do that before,” he said with a laugh about teasing Newgarden. “I would get in trouble.

“Yeah, I can be myself. I can say what I want to say. Nobody is upset about it. I love Josef. Don’t get me wrong. I love the guy.

“Do I love the driver? Not always, but I enjoy pressing the button with him because he seems like such a confident person. Yeah, I like to just go press it a little bit.”

When he was informed of the sardonic comments (Pagenaud asked reporters to make sure they relayed that he enjoyed passing Newgarden in the race) after his first stint at Daytona last weekend, Newgarden took a shot back.

“He doesn’t get many opportunities these days, so I’m sure he enjoyed that,” Newgarden said. “Take them when you can get them. There’s so much happening I don’t even remember half the stuff that happened when I was out there. Hey, he’s a big note-keeper, that guy.”

Pagenaud, who is winless since 2020, conceded that point Tuesday at IndyCar’s media session.

“I will do better this year,” he said. “But I got to build my team up, put myself in that situation. We were not there yet. I hope we can be there this year.

“But certainly not being teammates, you race differently. Now, the driver that he is, I have a huge amount of respect for him. He’s tremendous. I mean, he’s one of the best at what he does. So beating him is even a better reward. But I like my résumé better than his.”

For the record, Newgarden has one more IndyCar championship than Pagenaud but is empty in the Indy 500 win column compared to the 2019 winner at the Brickyard.

During his Rolex 24 availability, Pagenaud also took playful aim at the “Bus Bros,” the branded social and digital content that Newgarden and teammate and buddy Scott McLaughlin have been producing for nearly a year.

“Apparently they hang out together all the time,” Pagenaud cracked. “They’re ‘Bus Bros.’ Do you guys know what this is, the ‘Bus Bros’ thing? Have you watched it? I should start watching it.”

Newgarden and McLaughlin are scheduled to appear together on the second day of the preseason media event at the Palm Springs Convention Center, so stay tuned for the next round of snark.


Pagenaud is among many drivers enthused to get acclimated to The Thermal Club, which is a $275 million motorsports country club of sorts.

But for the Frenchman, Thermal represents more than just a chance to tune up for the 2023 season. Pagenaud, who made his first visit to the desert track three years ago after winning the Indy 500, is thinking about his long-term future.

“It’s actually something I’m really interested in for my future but in another life,” he said. “I love the concept. Actually before my IndyCar career, I was on a project like that myself in France. I was going to build something similar. I had the backing, I had everything going on, but my career took off. I had to give up on the project.

“But it is something I’ve always been interested in. My dad used to run my home racetrack. I had access to it, so I could see how that was going.

“I always had a passion for it because it’s a way to allow the fans to get closer to the car, allow the sport to be more known to the general public. There’s so many things that you can do with a racetrack, not only for races, but so many people that can come to bicycle races, you can have runners do a marathon. It doesn’t have to be just racing. It can be events. I’m into that. I’ve always been. Certainly when it’s time to stop driving, it will be something that I’m interested in, yes. That’s maybe 20 years from now.”


Felix Rosenqvist returns for his third consecutive season at McLaren, the longest stint with one team for the Swede since 2014 in F3.

But he finds himself somewhat in a similar position to last season when his return was uncertain for months during the Alex Palou-Chip Ganassi Racing saga. Palou is back with Ganassi but still expected to join the team in 2024, and with Rossi and O’Ward on long-term deals, Rosenqvist would be unable to stay unless the team added a fourth car.

He is taking it all in stride with the same grace in which he managed last season’s uncertainty.

“I think I handled it probably as good as I could,” Rosenqvist said of last year. “That’s probably a reason why I’m here this year. I think it’s a massive opportunity for me to be back for a third year. I feel like I have all the tools I need to perform, feeling very good with everyone at the car. As I said, there’s so many things happening last year on and off the track. I think as a team, we just really learned a lot from that that we can bring into this season.

“I think we’ll be tough this year. We have a lot of things in the bag to try early this season. A couple of things here at Thermal we want to try. Going into the season, we have pinpointed some areas where we feel we were lacking a little bit, like the short ovals, for example. I feel like we’ve done the best we can to attack all those areas and bring the best possible package we can.”

Rosenqvist is winless since his breakthrough victory over O’Ward at Road America in 2020. Ending that skid certainly would improve his prospects, but he isn’t worried.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future,” he said. “That’s a long time until next year. I think it’s a great opportunity for me. I’m in a good spot. I’m in a well-performing team. I feel well with everyone around me. I feel like I have a good support from the team. I don’t really think too much about that stuff. I just try to do what I can do, which is go fast forward and try to win races.”


After being frozen out of remote access to team data last year, Palou said his working relationship at Ganassi is “back to 100% like it was before from both sides.” The 2021 series champion said he had full privileges restored after he closed the season by winning the finale at Laguna Seca Raceway and then settled on staying with Ganassi a day later.

He is allowed to continue his F1 testing with McLaren, too, though IndyCar will be the priority in-season.

“It was a tough year,” said Palou, whose contract dispute lasted for two months. “Could have been a lot worse, for sure, than what we had but also could have been a little bit better if we didn’t have anything around in our minds. It’s a part of racing.

“I’m just happy that now we know that even with things in our minds, we were able to be successful. Hopefully, we can be back to 2021 things during this season. Yeah, obviously there’s always some moments (in 2022) where you’re like, ‘Oh, no, my God, this is not going the direction I wanted.’ But there was things that were out of my control, obviously. Some things that I could control, as well. But at the end of the day I had all the information from my side, from other sides. I knew that everything could be settled, and it did.”


Pato O’Ward unplugged from the racing world for six weeks during the offseason, ensuring he was fully recharged when the new year arrived.

“I haven’t had the opportunity to do it in the past few years,” said O’Ward, who tested an F1 car in 2021 and then went right into preparing and racing (then winning) the 2022 Rolex 24 at Daytona. “I said, ‘I want at least six weeks. Don’t talk to me, don’t text me, I don’t want to hear anything.’ It’s healing. It’s very healing.

“As much as you love what you do, you need to find a balance of just doing something else. I always tell people, there’s a huge difference between relaxing and recharging. How I recharge is doing things I don’t normally do during the year. Just being at the beach to me is my favorite thing to do after driving race cars. I made sure that I had that kind of time to just enjoy my loved ones. After I was finished with that, I was like, ‘OK, race cars now.’ ”


Marcus Ericsson is planning on a long future with Chip Ganassi Racing, and the 2022 Indy 500 winner seems well-positioned to become the team’s anchor driver if he can maintain last season’s consistency.

Jimmie Johnson has been replaced by the Marcus Armstrong-Takuma Sato combination, and Alex Palou is leaving after this year.

Six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, 42, is Ganassi’s unquestioned dean until his retirement, but Ericsson clearly is interested in the mantle after that.

“I’m feeling very much at home in the team,” said Ericsson, the Formula One who is entering his fourth season with CGR. “I’m super happy about that. I wish to stay for a very long time, as well. There is some uncertainty with other places maybe in the future, but Dixon seems to be just getting better and better. He might be here for another 10 years or so, who knows.

“But that’s great. Me and Scott, we work really well together. I can still learn a lot from him. I want to be here for a long time and win races and championships together.”

The Swede had a droll response when asked if no longer being the only Marcus will get confusing in Ganassi debriefs. “Yeah, it is; I’m angry,” Ericsson deadpanned. “I think we’re OK. He seems like a good kid. He has a good name.”


Following in the footsteps of Callum Ilott and Christian Lundgaard from F2 to IndyCar, Armstrong is OK with deferring his F1 dreams to run road and street courses as a rookie in 2023. The New Zealander grew up as an IndyCar fan rooting for Dixon, his boyhood idol and fellow countryman.

“I’ve been watching him on TV since I was a kid,” Armstrong, 22, said. “It’s cool because IndyCar is massive where I’m from because of him. I’ve always been so attracted to this championship. Of course, I spent my entire life chasing F1. You can never say ‘never.’ If I’m honest with you, I’m happy where I am now. It’s a dream come true.”

Armstrong hopes to move to full time in 2024 and believes being aligned with a powerhouse such as Ganassi will give him an opportunity to post strong results immediately (just as Ilott and Lundgaard had flashes as rookies last year).

“I’ve been genuinely impressed by the organization, just the strategic point of view that Chip Ganassi Racing has, it’s really quite remarkable,” he said. “I can understand why they’ve had so much success. I think fundamentally I need to get on it straightaway. I have all the information in the world, really. I just need to hit the ground running, do well immediately.”


In among the wildest stories of the offseason, rookie Sting Ray Robb revealed he landed his ride at Dale Coyne Racing because he ran into Indy Lights champion Linus Lundqvist at PitFit Training, a physical fitness and performance center used by many drivers in Indianapolis.

Lundqvist was the presumptive favorite for the DCR No. 51 Dallara-Honda, which was the last open seat heading into the 2022 season. Because of his Indy Lights title (since rebranded as “IndyNXT”) with HMD Motorsports, Lundqvist had a six-figure sponsorship to bring to an IndyCar team, and DCR is partnered with HMD.

“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 said. “Obviously with Linus winning the 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, Pieter Rossi, 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. 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.

“I think there’s been some opportunities that were miraculously created that we couldn’t have done on our own.”

Robb, who finished second in last year’s Indy Lights standings, hasn’t talked to Lundqvist since their PitFit meeting.

“Linus does deserve a seat” in IndyCar, Robb said. “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. So there you go.”