Sage Karam More Relaxed for 101st Indy 500; 22-year-old racer says he has matured since strong 2016 run
Hard-charging Nazareth driver came from 23rd to fourth before mishap at lap 93
SPEEDWAY, Ind. (May 11, 2016) – Young racer Sage Karam drove into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today with a different mindset from last year’s 100th edition of the world’s most famous auto race, the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.
The 22-year-old Nazareth, Pa., driver was very impressive last year in the No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Chevrolet machine with his charge from the 23rd starting position to fourth before the halfway point of the 200-lap motorsports classic. It was on lap 93 when Karam made contact with the south end wall on the 2.5-mile historic oval track.
It was a difficult end for the youngster who has shown great potential throughout his racing career that included F2000 and Indy Lights titles as well as the “Hard Charger Award” in his Indy 500 “rookie” performance in 2014 for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. But Sage will admit that his ‘hard-charging” style has gotten him in trouble too.
Now, in 2017, Karam believes that his thinking in the cockpit as changed for the 101st running of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” with the bright yellow and black No. 24 Mecum Auctions DRR Chevy Dallara race car.
“I was talking to Dennis (Reinhold, team owner) and Chase (Selman, team manager) the other day and saying that I wish I didn’t have to wait a full year to get back to the 500,” said Karam. “You think about this race a lot. Especially when you know you had a fast car last year and we were running up front. We could have had a good result. It just makes you want to get back to the track so soon.”
Yes, Karam has been anxious to get back to Indy but he has been busy this year as he drives for Lexus in the WeatherTech IMSA Sports Car series. And having a veteran teammate and former Indy 500 racer Scott Pruett to assist Sage in his racing attitude has been good.
“It feels good to have some races under my belt with Lexus and Scott this year including the Daytona 24, Sebring, Long Beach and COTA last weekend,” said Karam, who drives for the 3GT Racing team from Michigan in IMSA. “I feel that doing those races has made me more relaxed behind the wheel coming to Indy. Last year, without some racing before Indy, I thought I got too anxious in the 500 when I was towards the front. I really wanted to lead the race.”
Working with strategist Reinbold and chief engineer Jeff Britton, Karam believes the Mecum Auctions DRR Chevy will be strong again on May 28 when the green drops for the 500.
“I think the specs for this year are similar to last year’s,” he said. “So that is very encouraging since we went from 23rd to fourth just before the halfway mark. That gives me a lot of confidence coming into this year’s race with a similar DRR setup. I feel great coming into the 101st Indy 500. I feel if I have a car as good as last year’s race car I can be in position to win the race. That’s very exciting for me, the sponsors and the whole team.”
Karam has been in Indy in recent weeks to work with his crew in setting up the cockpit of his race car and talk strategy entering the practice rounds at IMS which begin on Monday, May 15.
“It’s refreshing to see everyone back in the shop,” Karam admits. “I was looking over everything and meeting with the crew for a few days. Every year I come into the shop and see how the guys are preparing a strong car for the 500. And this year, it really looks great. The DRR guys really work hard to get their 500 car prepared properly.”
Karam, now entering his fourth Indy 500, has taken a new approach to his thinking at the legendary Speedway.
“Now, I know you don’t really need to get to the lead so soon in the race,” he said. “You need to be aggressive but let the race play out more. It’s 200 laps. I think I’ll be more relaxed this year coming to the 500. It will be my fourth Indy 500 and I have matured more than the previous years.”
Karam admits his faults in some of his earlier Indy 500 starts but he sees a different outlook for the 2017 classic.
“As a rookie, I was able finish and I really didn’t know what I was doing from a race craft standpoint,” he says. “I was just driving the car as fast as I could. I look back at it and still shake my head. It’s interesting to see behind the scenes now for three years and going to my fourth this month. I have made mistakes at Indy. I’ve crashed on the first lap. I’ve crashed at the halfway point. I think I know where I need to be and when I need to be there in the race. It is the most confident I have felt in my time coming to the 500. Because I know we can run up front now. I know the team is capable of winning this race.”
One thing Karam is excited about this year at Indy is his primary sponsor, Mecum Auctions. Sage is a huge fan of watching the Mecum TV shows and hopes to stop in at the Indy Mecum Auction on May 16-20 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
“I’m so excited to be sponsored by Mecum Auctions this year,” said Karam. “It’s funny. I haven’t actually been to one of the Mecum Auctions because of other conflicts. But I watch the show on NBC Sports regularly. I’m a car guy like most in the Indy 500 garage area. They do some really cool stuff at those auctions and I want to go to the one in Indy this month. It looks like a blast.
“A lot of drivers have to work with some sponsors that aren’t too exciting for them. But I can tell you that the Mecum sponsorship gets me very excited because of my interest in cars. To work with a sponsor with some very historic and amazing machinery is very cool for me.”
For Sage, he has been thinking about his 2016 race for 11 months and he feels he learned many lessons as he enters his fourth 500-mile contest. Like all youngsters, Karam has been on a learning curve and he is ready to put that learning experience to use and drive into the IMS winner’s circle on May 28.