Sage Karam (IndyCar photo)

Karam takes Indy Lights title as Munoz repeats 2012 Fontana race win

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The Firestone Indy Lights Series signed off its 2013 season in style as Sage Karam captured the series championship, while Carlos Munoz repeated his Fontana race win in the Lefty’s Kids Club 100 over Gabby Chaves.

Karam’s title is Sam Schmidt’s fourth consecutive and seventh overall in Indy Lights. The 18-year-old native of Nazareth, Pa. ends his season with three wins, nine podiums, two poles and 163 laps led.

“I can’t explain it.  I was crying on that last lap, just to know the dream is almost in reach and to be in the IndyCar Series racing with my heroes,” Karam said.

Karam had to start last in the nine-car field due to an engine change in his No. 8 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry. But within the first half of the 50-lap race, Karam charged through the field into the top three, and a position where he could take the championship. He ended the race in third place.

His teammate and title rival Chaves ran second behind Munoz most of the day, but despite several efforts to pass on the outside, he was unable to complete the move. Chaves needed a win and Karam to finish fourth or worse to overcome the 16-point deficit entering the race.

“I managed to burn up the tires,” Chaves explained. “My car would understeer a bit. We always had a great run off Turn 4, but it was not enough to get around Carlos. We fought until the last lap of this championship. It’s not over, plenty of championships to come.”

Munoz’s win was his series-high fourth this season, breaking a tie with Karam and Jack Hawksworth. Munoz finishes third in the standings, two positions shy of his goal entering his second Indy Lights season.

“I’m a little bit sad to not win the championship because that was the main goal,” Munoz said. “But with second in the Indianapolis 500 and a great win here, it was still the best year of my career.”

Munoz will start 10th as the last-minute replacement for E.J.Viso in tonight’s IndyCar race, the MAVTV 500.

Behind the top three, polesitter Zach Veach finished fourth ahead of the three Belardi Auto Racing entries (Jorge Goncalvez, Juan Pablo Garcia and Giancarlo Serenelli), and the two remaining SPM entries of Kyle O’Gara and Hawksworth.

The race was the last for Indy Lights on Firestone tires after a 20-plus year run, before the series switches to Cooper Tire in 2013.

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”