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Notes & Quotes: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg



STING RAY ROBB joined AJ Foyt Racing this season which will be his second year of competing in the NTT INDYCAR Series. Robb, who grew up in Payette, Idaho was named after Chevrolet's Corvette Stingray and for the first time in his professional career, he is driving a Chevrolet-powered race car: the No. 41 Pray.com Chevrolet. After a successful career in go-karts, Robb rose quickly through INDYCAR's ladder system, winning the INDY PRO 2000 Series title in 2020, and the vice-champion title in the 2022 INDY NXT by Firestone division. We asked him a few questions...

 

When did you know you wanted to race cars for a living? And when did you realize that you could?

SR: "From an early age I knew I wanted to race cars for a living. I didn't have the concept though, that I wouldn't be able to do it all: be an astronaut, pilot, doctor, CIA agent, NBA player and all the other things I had thought I might get to do. There was always a desire to drive and to drive faster, even as a 4-year-old. I think I mostly clearly saw the chance to make a living in racing when I was around 13 or 14-years-old. As I progressed through the ranks in karting, and eventually succeeded through them, I saw the desire and ability to drive at a high level for a living." 

 


What was your first memory of a race track or a race?

 SR: "My earliest memory is probably when I was around four years old when my parents would take me around to Corvette club meetings, drag races, and autocross events that parents would race in. One specific memory was when I got to ride with one of my parents around an autocross track, but I wasn't able to see very well over the dash!"

 

What were some of the obstacles you faced in becoming a race driver and how did you overcome them?

 SR: "I was a small town kid from Idaho... There were a lot. Thankfully, my parents dedicated a lot of their time and effort into giving me a chance to live out my dream. We learned the hard way, a lot of times. Lack of knowledge, funding, and long distances to travel to new tracks with unknown equipment was always the logistical challenges, but in motorsports there's always something new to learn and another driver to beat." 


Sting Ray at age 5 shows the determination that fueled his passion for racing. He won the race in Star, Idaho.


How do you handle the pressure that comes with IndyCar's strong competition?

SR:  "Throughout my career, as I've progressed, I have felt similar pressures. This is no different in the sense that it's another step-up and the drivers are just that much BETTER. INDYCAR is the pinnacle of open-wheel, ontrack competition, so I'd be wrong to suggest it isn't the most pressure I've ever felt. Therefore, I've found that having an identity tied to my faith in Christ (on and off the track) is that much more important." 

 

What do you think is the most important lesson you learned last year that will help you this year?

SR: "Patience and grace are underrated characteristics in the sport. For yourself and others." 



Do you set goals for yourself? If so, what are your goals for this year?

SR: "Yes, I do. Although, sometimes the actual number result for the season is slightly obscure. It is only a result of how well you do everything consistently through the year. I've set some personal goals that will help achieve success on the track and in the championship."

 

What do you enjoy most about racing cars?

SR: "Other than driving fast and playing with race cars? All joking aside, I love the competition and problem solving. Working with a team of people dedicated to achieving results together is a special feeling, too." 


 What do you like about racing in St. Petersburg?

SR: "St. Pete is a great city first off and a great place to kick off the season after hiding from the winter months. The track itself is great because it is a very smooth street course, with the occasional big transitions and bumps. The natural waterline changes the way the roads curve from other downtown streets, which adds more character and rhythm to the track." 



Your faith is integral to your life -- at what age did you realize its importance to you?

SR: "I was probably 12 or 13 when I had first experienced true, life-altering faith. Ironically, at the race track. I began to see that the length and depth of life, and wandering through without reason or purpose was hard.  Finding that purpose and truth in my faith changed how I could see the world and moments that would shape my life." 

 

Do you ever encounter criticism for being so public about your commitment to your faith? How do you handle it?

SR: "Oh, yes. More and more. Over the course of the last 18 months, I've felt more criticism than ever for my faith as well as other things. I've learned to handle it by focusing on what's true, that truth should decide how I respond. Spending time reading the Bible and seeking out a relationship with the truth there has been helpful for me to handle the pressures and criticism of others." 

 

How do you spend your spare time? What interests you when you’re not racing?


SR: "Since moving to Indianapolis, I haven't gotten to spend as much time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors like I used to. Being in the mountains is one of my favorite things, whether it be mountain biking, skiing, hiking, hunting, fishing, or other things. I played several sports growing up so I still enjoy some of those, including basketball, golf, tennis, pickleball, and spikeball (the list goes on). Rock climbing is something I have found to be a good workout and challenging. Other than these activities, I'm realizing the older I become, the more I like to learn, so reading has become a good habit." 

 

What would you do for a living if you weren’t a race driver?

SR: "I'm always tempted with the idea to get a bird dog and move to the mountains where I could hunt and train dogs for living... but knowing myself, I think I would get bored after a while. In school, I had always planned to go to college to study engineering and theology. It was a unique combination but I think either would have fit pretty well."

 

Do you have a favorite saying?


SR: "My step-dad used to tell us kids growing up, " There's two kinds of men in this world: those that are humble and those that are about to be." It was a great reminder to start there and work hard, be confident and fight for truth rather than getting it wrong and finding out the hard way."

 

Sting Ray Fast Facts: Age 22...Grew up in Payette, ID...Lives in Indianapolis...Engaged to Molly Mitchell...Began racing karts at age 5 winning several national titles over the next 10 years. His transition to cars began at the Skip Barber Karts to Cars Shootout where he won the Bryan Herta Scholarship which put him on the Road to Indy and into the NTT INDYCAR Series at age 21. In his rookie season, he scored a career best finish of 12th in the season finale in Monterey, Calif. A devout Christian, Robb will be active as a spokesman for his sponsor Pray.com this season. Off track, Robb enjoys mountain biking, skiing, hiking, hunting, fishing, rock-climbing, golf, tennis, pickleball and basketball.

 

SANTINO FERRUCCI returns to pilot the No. 14 Sexton Properties Chevrolet this season--this time as a married man. Ferrucci married Renay Moore in January and the couple continue to make their home in Dallas along with their dogs, a yellow lab named 'Kodak' and 'Kleo,' a Great Dane. Ferrucci is looking forward to the season after limited but productive testing in the last couple of months.


New to AJ Foyt Racing, race engineer James Schnabel chats with his driver Santino Ferrucci.

 

What do you like about racing in St. Pete?

SF: "Well, racing in St. Pete is great, especially to go to Florida in the early March. Nice beach weather. Great for fans to start the season there. It's just an all-around really fun event. I've always enjoyed going there. I think the track races really well, and by that I mean because of the strategy and tire wear so it makes the pitstops quite unique. You can run different strategies. It's a very technical track so you can't really make any mistakes. I'm looking forward to getting back after it."

 

How do you think the changes in the car for the hybrid will affect the handling of the cars at St. Pete?

SF: "I don't think it's gonna affect the handling at all. I think the car should be quick. I think the tire compounds that Firestone has changed will be better. We can push more. I think they're slightly harder than last year in anticipation of the hybrid so that'll be a good change."



What is the key to qualifying at St. Pete?

SF: "The key to qualifying is probably not hitting the wall. The closer you get to it, the faster you go."

 

What would you consider a successful race weekend?

SF: "I believe at the rate that we're going with all the new personnel changes in engineering and the technical alliance with Team Penske, I think a successful weekend would look like a top-10 finish and I think we are more than capable of achieving that. We just need to make sure that we continue with our communication as it's been really smooth the last few tests. We've been able to get the car dialed in which is good. So, I think if we have clean pitstops and a clean race, we should end up inside the top-10, and that'll be a really solid starting point. I mean, the bar is not high from last year. Let's be real." 


Santino in his office. (Joe Skibinski-INDYCAR Photo)


What do you think about INDYCAR testing a new format for the practice session on Friday which starts with all cars on track for 20 minutes and then the field is split into two groups based on odd and even numbered pit stalls with those groups alternating on track in 10-minute sessions for the remainder of the session?

SF: "I think that this is something that we've come up with in the post season drivers meeting to limit drivers from running into the back of each other, especially at smaller tracks.  You know we are we're always either on track at the same time or not on the track at all. I think this just puts the cars on track more consistently. I'm fine with it. I think it's one of the good changes that we've made over the winter."

 

Ferrucci Fast Facts: Age 25...Born in Woodbury, CT...Lives in Dallas, Texas...Married Renay Moore in January...Began racing karts at age 5, moved to cars in 2013...Competed in Formula 2000, British Formula 3, GP3 finishing third at Spa Francorchamps as a rookie, was development driver for Haas F1 team for three years (2016-2018), moved to Formula 2 in 2018...made his INDYCAR debut in Detroit in 2018...moved to NTT INDYCAR Series fulltime in 2019 finishing 13th in standings for Dale Coyne and won Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year after finishing seventh...13th in standings again with fourth place finish in the 500...drove part-time in 2021-22 but maintained top-10 streak in Indy 500 with finishes of sixth (RLL Racing) and 10th (Dreyer Reinbold Racing)...Scored career-best finish to date with his 3rd place finish in the 2023 Indianapolis 500 to continue his string of consecutive top-10 finishes in the 500...Competed part-time in NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2021-22.

 

Past Performance at St. Petersburg: AJ Foyt Racing’s best start is from pole in 2014 with Takuma Sato. The team’s best finish is fourth with Sebastien Bourdais in 2020. Over the past 19 years, Foyt has fielded 29 entries and racked up 10 top-10s in starting berths including two front row starts (both with Sato). Last year, both entries were caught up in a multi-car crash on the first lap forcing both cars out of the race. Ferrucci's best finish is ninth, earned in 2019 while Robb's only INDYCAR start came last year when he finished 16th.

 

Peacock Streaming and NBC Broadcast Information: NBC's Peacock will stream Friday’s practice from 2:45 - 4:00 p.m. and Saturday’s practice from 9:35 – 10:35 a.m. Qualifying will be streamed live on Peacock on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. Peacock will stream the 30-minute warmup Sunday at 9:10 a.m. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be broadcast live on NBC starting at 12 noon. All times are Eastern.

 

Radio Broadcast Information: The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg race and all NTT INDYCAR SERIES practices and qualifying sessions air live on network affiliates, SiriusXM INDYCAR Nation 218 and SiriusXM NBC Sports Audio 85, racecontrol.indycar.com and the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA.

 

 

 

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