Sage Karam focusing on Indy Lights title after first win

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With his first Firestone Indy Lights victory out of the way, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Sage Karam is now setting his sights on the series championship as the scene shifts to the 7/8-mile Iowa Speedway for tonight’s Sukup 100.

“The first one’s always the toughest,” said Karam, who triumphed last weekend at the Milwaukee Mile. “To get that first one, it almost lifts a thousand pounds off your shoulders. Definitely feeling good and definitely having some good momentum going into Iowa with two poles in a row and a win – definitely good feelings. But we have to put that behind us and just focus on Iowa now. It’s in the past; just hopefully, we can carry that momentum.”

Karam sits 18 points behind Lights points leader Carlos Munoz going into Iowa, the third in a stretch of four consecutive oval races for the series. The American has had great success at the track while progressing through the Mazda Road to Indy, as he won there in USF2000 back in 2010 and then collected back-to-back Pro Mazda victories in 2011 and 2012.

Altogether, he’s very confident of success on the speedways – which, in his eyes, may be the determining factor in who walks away with the Lights title this season.

“I think what’s going to win the championship for us this year is good results on the ovals,” he said. “We got the win at Milwaukee. That was huge for us. I think Iowa can be another good one. We won there the last three years.  Hopefully, we can make it a four-peat. [I’m] definitely comfortable when it comes to the ovals. I love them.”

As a result, good results at this race and the next one at the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway will be critical to his run toward a title, which he says has to begin immediately.

“I think we were 29 points [behind] going into Milwaukee, now we’re only 18 – [we’ve] definitely made some progress,” said Karam. “We have to start getting some wins here and keep chipping away at [Munoz]. I’d like to go into Pocono almost tied with him. I think that would be a good goal, hopefully come out of Pocono in the lead.”

NBC Sports Network will broadcast tonight’s Lights race (Green Flag – 8:50 p.m. ET) on June 28 at 11 p.m. ET.

F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on NBCSN, NBC Sports App this week

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After five years and 98 Grands Prix broadcast since 2013, NBC Sports Group’s coverage of Formula 1 concludes with the 2017 season finale from Abu Dhabi at the Yas Marina Circuit this week.

The lights come on for the day-into-night Grand Prix of the year as the sun sets on five years of broadcasts, original content and additional digital specific features such as Paddock Pass.

For Abu Dhabi this week, all of the race, qualifying and second free practice will be live on NBCSN with first and third free practice live on the NBC Sports App. The race returns is back in the usual morning a.m. time slots after three mid-day races in Austin, Mexico City and Sao Paulo, and a pair of overnight affairs in Kuala Lumpur and Suzuka. Formula 2 coverage of its season finale from Abu Dhabi also airs both on NBCSN and online.

With this the final race of the season before F1’s winter break, there’s still a handful of things to get sorted even though Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have wrapped their respective championships.

Sebastian Vettel (Brazil) and Max Verstappen (Mexico) have won the last two races, with Hamilton’s most recent win coming at Circuit of the Americas. Will it be any of these three that wrap the year on a high or could any of their teammates – Kimi Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo or Valtteri Bottas – upend the script?

Mercedes has won the last three races in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton winning in 2014 and 2016 with Nico Rosberg taking the 2015 crown.

Vettel and Hamilton have three wins apiece in Abu Dhabi, Vettel having taken all of his with Red Bull in 2009, 2010 and 2013, and Hamilton adding a 2011 McLaren triumph to his last two with Mercedes. Raikkonen (2012, Lotus) and Rosberg are the other Abu Dhabi winners, and while both Vettel and Raikkonen have won in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari never has in the first eight races here.

The last place up for grabs in the constructor’s battle is for sixth, with Toro Rosso (53 points), Renault (49) and Haas (47) separated by only six total points. Toro Rosso and Renault got into a nasty war of words in Brazil, and will part ways after the weekend.

Felipe Massa signs off his career in F1 for the second and expected final time at Williams, and with Toro Rosso having confirmed Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley last week, his seat is one of only three left to fill for 2018, and the most attractive.

McLaren and Honda also bring to an end their partnership after three troubled seasons, but on the bright side will look to score points for a third straight race together, which hasn’t happened since the Hungarian, German and Belgian Grands Prix of 2016.

As ever, and perhaps for the final time as a collective unit, Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett will be on the call with Will Buxton reporting from the pits and paddock.

Here’s the F1 schedule, with stream links and TV network if applicable:

  • Practice 1: Friday, Nov. 24, 4 a.m.-5:30 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Practice 2: Friday, Nov. 24, 8 a.m.-9:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 3: Saturday, Nov. 25, 5 a.m.-6 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Qualifying: Saturday, Nov. 25, 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Pre-Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 7 a.m.-8 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 8 a.m.-10 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Post-Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 10 a.m.-10:55 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race (Replay): Sunday, Nov. 26, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • F2 Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 6 a.m.-7 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • F2 Race (Replay): Sunday, Nov. 26, 9 p.m.-10 p.m. ET (NBCSN)