Sting Ray Robb during the Indy Lights portion of the Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Photo Courtesy of Penske Entertainment)

By Steve Wittich

Sting Ray Robb, an Andretti Autosport veteran who has a current string of three straight Indy Lights podiums, led the lone practice session on Belle Isle, leading teammate Matthew Brabham and Hunter McElrea by 0.1067 and 0.2408 seconds, respectively.

Also within a half-second of Robb’s fast lap were HMD Motorsports / Global Racing Group teammates Linus Lundqvist and Benjamin Pedersen.

The lone 50-minute Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires got underway at 2:25 pm. The ambient temperature was 79F, and the track temperature was 96.6F. The sky was sunny, with significant cloud cover blowing over the track from the west.

Veteran teammates Linus Lundqvist and Benjamin Pedersen, along with Sting Ray Robb (Andretti Autosport) and Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsports), were the drivers at the top of the timing screens early, quickly turning laps within a half-second of Kirkwood’s best practice time in 2021.

The broadcast spent quite a bit of time riding on board with Lundqvist, and it quickly became evident how hard it was to keep control on the bumpy street circuit with mixed surfaces.

The first driver to break 84 seconds was Lundqvist, besting the top lap of 84.2423 seconds in the first practice last year.

The following driver to go quicker on used Cooper Tire slicks was Robb, who led after 20-minutes of action. Lundqvist, McElrea, Rasmussen, and Brabham rounded out the top five.

Lundqvist went back to the top of the timing screens with 20-minutes left in practice. A pair of Andretti Autosport drivers followed the HMD Motorsports driver.

Lundqvist lowered the top time to less than a tenth of a second off Kirkwood’s pole from last year and over a second ahead of his practice time.

Robb was the first driver to go under Kirkwood’s pole time from 2021. However, his Andretti Autosport teammate Brabham quickly surpassed him.

The wind was blowing hard as we heard an unusual call from race control. The surface flag call is typical, but the reason – a tree branch in the racing line – was different.

With five minutes remaining, Robb was the first driver to break the 83-second mark, going over two-tenths of a second quicker than Brabham.

With just under minutes remaining, Ryan Phinny missed Turn 11 but didn’t hit anything, continuing on his lap after backing up.

After the session, Brabham told Ryan Myrehn on the INDYCAR Radio Network that he was happy with his No. 83 and that the track had a lot of grip. The American-born Aussie has plenty of laps in Stadium Super Trucks on the 2.35-mile, 14-turn Raceway at Belle Isle Park street circuit, but this is his first appearance in a formula car.

Indy Lights Detroit Grand Prix practice results

1 2 Sting Ray Robb Andretti Autosport 1:22.8943 —— 27
2 83 Matthew Brabham Andretti Autosport 1:23.0010 0.1067 28
3 27 Hunter McElrea Andretti Autosport 1:23.1351 0.2408 28
4 26 Linus Lundqvist HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing 1:23.2477 0.3534 25
5 24 Benjamin Pedersen Global Racing Group with HMD 1:23.4802 0.5859 25
6 28 Christian Rasmussen Andretti Autosport 1:23.5328 0.6385 27
7 68 Danial Frost HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing 1:23.6350 0.7407 27
8 51 Jacob Abel Abel Motorsports 1:23.8370 0.9427 24
9 21 Kyffin Simpson TJ Speed Motorsports 1:23.9909 1.0966 27
10 11 Antonio Serravalle HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing 1:24.2715 1.3772 27
11 7 Christian Bogle HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing 1:24.5233 1.6290 26
12 99 Ernie Francis Jr. Force Indy 1:24.9614 2.0671 29
13 12 James Roe TJ Speed Motorsports 1:25.1723 2.2780 31
14 61 Ryan Phinny Abel Motorsports 1:27.5213 4.6270 20

The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series first visited the bucolic Belle Isle in 1992, and the weekend’s doubleheader will be the 13th and 14th races. Driving for John Martin Racing, Adrian Fernandez went flag-to-flag in the first race in 1992.

Previous Indy Lights winners on Belle Isle

2021 Race #2 Kyle Kirkwood Andretti Autosport
2021 Race #1 Kyle Kirkwood Andretti Autosport
2012 Gustavo Yacaman Team Moore
2000 Jonny Kane Team Green
1999 Derek Higgins Team Mexico Herdez
1998 Airton Dare Tasman Motorsports
1997 Tony Kanaan Tasman Motorsports
1996 Tony Kanaan Tasman Motorsports
1995 Robbie Buhl Dorricott Racing
1994 Steve Robertson Tasman Motorsports
1993 Steve Robertson Tasman Motorsports
1992 Adrian Fernandez John Martin Racing

Last year, eventual champion Kyle Kirkwood used a pair of wins on the 2.35-mile, 14-turn Raceway at Belle Isle Park street circuit to turn a 27 championship deficit into a more manageable four-point gap to the title lead.

Race weekend basics

The baker’s dozen Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires drivers will have three more opportunities to explore the 2.35-mile, 14-turn Raceway at Belle Isle Park street circuit.

Qualifying is bright and early at 7:45 am on Saturday, and will have a new format for the double header. The half-hour window will be split into a pair of 12 minutes sessions. The first 12 minutes will set the grid for Saturday afternoon’s Indy Lights Detroit Grand Prix #1, and after a five-minute break, the second 12 minutes will set the grid for Sunday’s Indy Lights Detroit Grand Prix #1.

Saturday’s 11:30 am race is set for 25 laps, while Sunday’s 12:10 pm race will be 30 laps.

Push-to-pass returns for the first time this season and will be the same as the NTT INDYCAR SERIES utilizes and will look like this:

  • 150 total seconds
  • Minimum use is 1 second
  • Max use is 15 seconds at any time
  • A boost of 50 HP
  • It becomes active on starts/restarts when a driver hits the alt start/finish line.

Something else that is beginning this weekend is that Indy Lights is in the same paddock as the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, giving the drivers, teams, and their guests a bigger-time feeling. One team owner, who has several guests attending, told TSO Ladder that the extra buzz is beneficial to their entertaining.

As the weekend starts, 28.6% of the possible points Indy Lights points have been distributed. HMD Motorsports veteran Linus Lundqvist has collected 81% of the possible points available to the drivers and holds a 34-point lead over Danial Frost.

Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires points standings

1 Linus Lundqvist HMD Motorsports 175
2 Danial Frost HMD Motorsports 141 -34
3 Sting Ray Robb Andretti Autosport 137 -38
4 Benjamin Pedersen Global Racing Group w/HMD 131 -44
5 Matthew Brabham Andretti Autosport 119 -56
6 Christian Rasmussen – R Andretti Autosport 113 -62
7 Hunter McElrea – R Andretti Autosport 105 -70
8 Jacob Abel Abel Motorsports 102 -73
9 Antonio Serravalle Abel Motorsports/HMD Motorsports 93 -82
10 Ernie Francis, Jr. – R Force Indy 92 -83
11 Kyffin Simpson – R TJ Speed Motorsports 91 -84
12 Christian Bogle HMD Motorsports 80 -95
13 James Roe, Jr. – R TJ Speed Motorsports 68 -107
14 Manuel Sulaiman HMD Motorsports 48 -127
15 Ryan Phinny Abel Motorsports 34 -141