Carlin, Jones welcomed to America in their first weekend in Indy Lights

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Anyone that has followed Carlin Racing in Europe over the last decade, if not longer, knows its caliber of operation.

So even though this past weekend at St. Petersburg may have been its race debut in North America, as one of two new teams (8Star Motorsports) in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, its form was congruent with its results in Europe. Ed Jones swept both races from pole in the No. 11 car, and led every lap in the process.

Carlin has come to America and has immediately raised the game in the paddock in Indy Lights.

But in talking with racing director Trevor Carlin and the team’s lone full-season confirmed driver Jones, the mood was a reflective, thankful one as they were fully welcomed to America.

“It seems a lot more laid back and relaxed. People are very friendly,” Carlin told MotorSportsTalk prior to Sunday’s second race of the weekend.

“Bearing in mind this is our first weekend here, everyone is very welcoming. The people are enjoying being at a racetrack.”

The difference in mindset comes from the adaption to the North American atmosphere, where camaraderie is embraced and the paddock meant to be a showcase for the fans.

In Europe, the cutthroat nature of competition is manifested both on and off-track.

Jones, the Dubai-based Englishman, was more or less floored by the difference after advancing into Indy Lights from Formula 3 last year.

“It is very different to what I’m used to,” Jones told MotorSportsTalk. “In Europe everything is very closed off, almost by design.

“I raced Formula 3 last year, so DTM was the main series. The fans can’t get involved! They can’t see the cars, and everything is all shut down. Whereas in INDYCAR, it is a lot more fan friendly. You can see the cars close up.

“The environment here is that all the series here want the fans to get involved, and it’s a much more enjoyable experience. The drivers get to communicate with the people watching.

“In Europe, it’s a bit too serious. No one is very friendly. Racing here, everyone’s still focused on what they’re doing. But here they’re friendly and out there to have a good time, as well as working hard.”

Jones worked plenty hard over the course of the weekend, given his domination of a field that includes series returnees Jack Harvey and Matthew Brabham, and promising rookies such as Spencer Pigot and Scott Hargrove, among others.

He admitted a quick adaption to the Dallara IL15 chassis, powered by the turbocharged Mazda MZR-R engine.

“Since I’ve been racing it’s been normally aspirated engines,” Jones said. “But here, the electronic systems are so good, the power lag is so minimal it’s hard to notice. It’s a good car, and it’s been easy to get used to.”

Carlin himself praised his team’s first weekend performance, and even noted a bit of apprehension coming into the weekend given both Jones’ and Max Chilton’s pace in testing.

“We’ve worked very hard to get the team set up the last few months,” said Carlin, whose U.S. operations are based in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. “The boys have done an incredible job. To be as quick as we’ve been is fantastic.

“We were a bit apprehensive because testing had gone well, and we’d never raced here before, had never seen the circuit before and bit worried about it being bumpy. But as it happens, we’ve coped with it quite well and Ed and Max have done a brilliant job.”

Carlin confirmed that Chilton, who’s also slated for the full season in the FIA World Endurance Championship with Nissan, will be driving the team’s No. 14 car on a race-to-race basis, continuing at Long Beach.

Nissan’s pullout of The Prologue last weekend averted one of two schedule conflicts for Chilton; the other exists at Le Mans race weekend itself, when the 24-hour classic is June 13-14 and comes head-to-head with the Indy Lights doubleheader round in Toronto.

While Chilton had a mistake in race one and contact with Felix Serralles, he rebounded to fourth in race two.

Jones, meanwhile, described how much he liked the St. Petersburg street course in comparison to others such as Macau and Pau.

“It’s a good place by the water, that’s the most important thing,” he joked. “There’s some really difficult, technical parts of the course, like the midsection. But the fast, flowing bits like Turns 1-2-3, well that section is great to drive. All in all, it’s a great track.”

For the team in total, it was a great weekend and a sincerely successful debut in North America. The series resumes at Long Beach later this month, on April 19.

How IndyCar rookie Sting Ray Robb got that name (and some more of his backstory)

IndyCar Sting Ray Robb
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Every NTT IndyCar Series season brings a new round of getting to know the rookies, and it’s fairly obvious where the story starts with Sting Ray Robb.

Just for clarification, “Robb” is the last name. His given name indeed is “String Ray” on the birth certificate.

Why, yes, he does come from performance-car parentage.

And yes, the IndyCar rookie named “Sting Ray” will be driving the No. 51 Dallara-Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware.

How did that go over with a mom and dad who clearly prefer American automotive brands?

“That’s a tricky question,” Robb said with a laugh Tuesday during the IndyCar Preseason Content Days. “Yeah, my parents are big Corvette fans, and I think that they ruled out criticizing me too badly because they know the dream is IndyCar.”

“I’ll be in a Honda car and I’m assuming it’ll go pretty quick, so I’m OK with all of that.”

“They’re not going to rename you ‘NSX’ or something?” asked Motorsport.com’s David Malsher-Lopez (whose bitingly sardonic wit is regularly heard in IndyCar media centers).

“No. I hope not,” Robb said. “My name is my name. I don’t need a rename, thank you.”

Robb, 21, has been making a name for himself lately, finishing second in last year’s Indy NXT standings with 11 top-five finishes, eight podiums and two pole positions.

But the Payette, Idaho, native also has an intriguing backstory beyond his successful four years in the Road to Indy ladder system (that also included the 2020 Indy Pro title).

He hails from the same small town (northwest of Boise on the Oregon border) that produced Minnesota Twins slugger and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew.

Robb, whose graduating class was less than 100, recently found that Wikipedia listed him and Killebrew as the “notable alumni” from Payette High School.

“It’s nice to be see and appreciate all the things that I’ve learned and been through,” said Robb, who also played some baseball in his day, adding that “I’m more of a consistent singles hitter, slap hitter if you want to call it. No home runs, just doubles or triples here and there.”

Some other facts on the newest memorable name of IndyCar:

–He’s managed by Pieter Rossi (father of Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indy 500 winner), but he also gets a lot of help from his mother, Kimmie.

“We call her my ‘momager’ because she’s my mom and my manager,” Robb said. “She has been a huge role in my career because she does things that I’m unable to do as a driver.

“She’s able to play hardball with the contracts, etc., and have my best interest in mind when it comes to negotiating, along with Pieter. He may be someone that has a lot of experience in the series with Alexander, but he may not know what’s best for me. It’s good to have them both on my side, and I can learn a lot from them.”

–His family have been lifelong supporters since go-karting. “It was my mom, my dad, my grandparents on the road every weekend,” he said. “My dad has missed one race in my entire life, and it was because he was in the hospital. So we let him have a pass, and he was still on the phone every 30 minutes making sure that tire pressure was right, engine temp was right, we had the right gear on the car, etc.”

–Robb graduated high school a year early to focus on racing after being home-schooled as a child. “I went to someone’s house actually, and she taught me from the time I was in pre-K through sixth grade,” Robb said. “So in seventh grade I started going to public school, and I hate to say it, but I feel like I stopped learning after that point. But it was OK. I got some social skills, lucky for you guys.”

–He also has a wild story about how he landed his current ride during a random encounter in a trip to the gym (which you can read about here).