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.

Gabby Chaves to sub for Joao Barbosa at Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen

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Gabby Chaves is set to return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Watkins Glen International later this month.

The Columbian-American driver, who last competed in IMSA in 2016 – with the DeltaWing outfit – will sub for the injured Joao Barbosa – he hurt his wrist in a cycling accident earlier in June – in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.

Chaves will partner Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Cadillac.

Chaves expressed gratitude for being asked to fill in, but kept his enthusiasm muted, noting that he is getting the opportunity ultimately because another driver got hurt.

“The first thing is of course that you never want to have an opportunity because someone got hurt, so this is an unfortunate circumstance with Joao having his injury,”said Chaves. “But I appreciate the opportunity to join the championship-leading team. Mustang Sampling Racing has had a strong start this year and hopefully I can help the team continue to have those kinds of results.”

Chaves added, “I love Watkins Glen, it is a great track and I am looking forward to racing the Cadillac Prototype there. I’m excited to be going back to endurance racing. With different classes all racing at the same time, there is a lot for the driver to deal with as you work through traffic. So I am looking forward to racing at the Glen again, and I really appreciate this opportunity with Mustang Sampling Racing.”

Chaves’ most recent IMSA event was the 2016 Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, when he finished seventh in the Prototype class.

The No. 5 Action Express Cadillac currently sits tied with the sister No. 31 Whelen Engineer Racing Cadillac of Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr atop the IMSA standings, though Barbosa’s hopes of a driver’s championship are set to take an enormous hit with him missing Watkins Glen.

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