Dixon passes Bobby Unser for fifth on all-time list with 36th IndyCar win

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LONG BEACH, Calif. – Bobby Unser was honored Thursday night at the annual Road Racing Drivers’ Club dinner in downtown Long Beach.

On Sunday, Unser’s career record was acknowledged – and then eclipsed – by Scott Dixon in the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The New Zealander won his 36th career race in North American open-wheel racing, dating to 2001 when he won his first at Nazareth Speedway, then driving for PacWest Racing, in CART.

Dixon, who remains more focused on the present in the Verizon IndyCar Series rather than reflecting on his own place in history, downplayed his achievement in the immediate aftermath in victory lane.

“Stats are stats. Hopefully someday you can look back when you’re done with racing and be happy with it,” Dixon told NBCSN’s Kelli Stavast in victory lane.

“For me to be in that group of names means a lot. They were my heroes and people I looked up to and still feel thankful to have the around me, the racing community. We’re going to keep digging and hopefully we can add to those.”

Unser hailed Dixon’s achievement in a quote released to the media shortly after the race.

“Long Beach is never an easy place to win, and Scott Dixon did a great job today and so did his pit crew to get him out front. Racing is a team effort and both Scott and his crew earned the win, my congratulations to them.  Scott is a smart, smooth driver and once again proved it,” Unser said.

“Scott Dixon has a big, big abundance of talent and he has proven it over the years – he wins driving on any type of course he races his Indy car on. Scott wins on ovals, big and small; street courses and road courses.  I remember last year he came from dead last to win at Mid-Ohio. Scott Dixon has talent and skill and will win races for years and years to come.  He is always really fun to watch, for sure.  Congrats on earning your 36th career Indy car win today Scott – keep up the impressive driving.”

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).