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.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.