By Patrick Stephan

The penultimate round of the 2022 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season starts with Sting Ray Robb on the pole and his Andretti Autosport teammate Christian Rasmussen alongside. Pedersen, McElrea and soon to be 2022 champion Linus Lundqvist round out the Top-5 starters.

On the pace lap, Kyffin Simpson spins at I believe was Turn 4. He is able to get back on the dusty, slick track surface and get in to position for the start.

Flinn Lazier who had qualified 12th, has an issue getting off pit lane and stalls at the top of the hill at the exit of the pits. He rolls the car backwards on to pit lane, the AMR INDYCAR Safety team has come to his aid and he is trying to get his car started in time to take the green this time by.

The field packs up coming down the hill from the corkscrew, and the green flag waves on what is actually Lap 2.

Robb on the inside is half a car length back at Turn 2 (the Andretti Hairpin), but he uses the better line to keep Rasumussen at bay and leads exiting the turn.  Kyffin Simpson cuts the corkscrew on the initial green flag lap – telling his team he was pushed off by Danial Frost.

The order at the end of Lap 2 is Robb, Rasmussen, Hunter McElrea, Jacob Abel, Benjamin Pedersen and Linus Lundqvist who I believe locked up the title by taking the green.

At the end of Lap, Robb is already up to a 1.9 second lead over Rasmussen.

Lap 4 and Danial Frost passes Nolan Siegel for 7th as everyone except Siegel sets their fastest lap of the race on this lap. Clearly the grip level is still improving, but drivers are also already thinking of conserving their tires on this high degradation track.

Robb is out to a 2.78 second second lead on Lap 5.  NOTE: Flinn Lazier is still on pit lane with the Abel Motorsports team working on the left rear – possibly a half shaft or something of that nature.  A disappointment for sure as he got in to an accident on Lap 1 at Portland and so far hasn’t turned any race laps here at Laguna Seca.  It was later confirmed that yes, he broke a half shaft. Lazier would join the even 8 laps down just to get some laps in and prepare for tomorrow’s finale.

The closest battles on the track at this point is Jacob Abel trying to hold off Benjamin Pedersen for 4th place.

Nolan Sigel in 8th is also under a lot of pressure Matthew Brabham for 8th, with Bogle, Simpson and Francis also closely following.

Brabham is looking for a place to pass, and gets it down with an over under crossover at Turn 2. Siegel, the 17 year old making is first Lights appearance, had taken the inside inside line, but couldn’t pinch it down enough to keep it on the line in the center. When Siegel slid a little wide on exit, Brabham was right there to take the position and quickly set sail for Danial Frost in 7th.

Lap 11, and the lead for Robb over Rasmussen is 4.17, and it’s 2.5 further back to McElrea another 4.3 to Abel in fourth.

It gets tighter there as Pedersen is just a couple car lengths back in 5th.

On Lap 15, Kyffin Simpson spins at the top of the corkscrew and then slides down the hill off to the left of the racing line, but still on the track. He is able to get the car pointed the right direction and roll down the hill and rejoin the race.

With 15 of the 35 laps completed, Robb leads by 4.7 over Rasmussen and it still be warned to keep managing his tires. Ernie Francis, Jr., down in 11th turns his quickest lap of the race on Lap 15 with a 1:18.6. Robb up front in clear air has the quickest lap of the race himself at 1:16.7720 – which he did on Lap 5.

After that spin, Simpson is posting his quickest laps of the race with Lap 18 being a 1:18.3106…note that Flinn Lazier is also making his quickest laps now at 1:18.5627.

Christian Bogle gets by Nolan Siegel for 9th on Lap 19, and Siegel is now under a lot of pressure by Ernie Francis, Jr., who two laps in a row has nearly hit Siegel’s attenuator.

Up front, Robb is still extending his lead, now up to 6.6 seconds, McElrea, Abel, Pedersen and Lundqvist round out the Top-6. Frost, Brabham, Bogle, Siegel, Francis, Jr., Simpson and Lazier complete the 13 car field.

With 10 laps to go, Robb leads now by 9.27 over Rasmussen, McElrea, Abel, Pedersen and Lundqvist.

5 Laps to go and Robb continues to lead by 9.4 seconds, with the rest of the field also remaining static.

We could see some action for 5th – 8th, as Lundqvist is 1.3 behind Pedersen and Frost and Brabham are also around a second back of each other.

The drivers are still hustling the cars as we come in to the final three laps. We’ve seen several wheels dropped off in the dirt, and driver’s locking tires entering the corkscrew.

Sting Ray Robb continues to expand his lead, taking the white flag 10.8 seconds ahead.

Checkered flag – Sting Ray Robb wins by 11.0674, his first career Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires. On pit lane, we see team owner Michael Andretti congratulating the Robb family. This is Robb’s seventh career podium.  It moves him to 2nd in the points, 100 behind Lunqvist, but 7 ahead of McElrea and Brabham – unofficially of course.

Unofficial Results IndyLights presented by Cooper Tires – WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Race #1

Pos Car # Driver Laps Diff ST Status Team
1 2 Sting Ray Robb 35 LAP 35 1 Active Andretti Autosport
2 28 Christian Rasmussen 35 11.0674 2 Active Andretti Autosport
3 27 Hunter McElrea 35 19.2306 4 Active Andretti Autosport
4 51 Jacob Abel 35 20.1513 7 Active Abel Motorsports
5 24 Benjamin Pedersen 35 24.5887 3 Active Global Racing Group with HMD
6 26 Linus Lundqvist 35 27.6857 5 Active HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing
7 68 Danial Frost 35 28.1225 6 Active HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing
8 83 Matthew Brabham 35 28.7642 13 Active Andretti Autosport
9 7 Christian Bogle 35 45.2572 11 Active HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing
10 11 Nolan Siegel 35 55.7876 9 Active HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing
11 99 Ernie Francis Jr. 35 56.3358 10 Active Force Indy
12 21 Kyffin Simpson 35 57.1577 8 Active HMD Motorsports
13 15 Flinn Lazier 28 7 LAPS 12 Active Abel Motorsports