Sage Karam confirmed for Indianapolis 500; CGR with DRR/Kingdom Racing

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The 2013 Indy Lights champion, Sage Karam, will make his Indianapolis 500 debut this year after formal confirmation of a new multi-year driver development deal with Chip Ganassi Racing.

Karam, rather than be entered in a fifth sole CGR entry, will be entered in a CGR-supported No. 22 Chevrolet, entered by Dreyer & Reinbold Kingdom Racing.

“I couldn’t be happier to join Chip Ganassi Racing’s Verizon IndyCar Series program,” Karam said in a team release. “It is honestly a dream come true for me and my racing career. I’ve been very fortunate to participate in a few IMSA races for Chip with the team, and I can’t wait for my first experience in the Indianapolis 500. Chip has created a fantastic organization that judges success by just one thing – WINNING, both races and championships. This is a very big day for me.”

The Nazareth, Pa. 19-year-old, a senior in high school, has competed in the first two TUDOR United SportsCar Championship races of 2014 in CGR’s Ford EcoBoost Riley Daytona Prototype. He led at Sebring and was one of that race’s stars.

Said Ganassi of his newest development driver, “Sage is a unique talent that we believe is a future star of the sport. Even at a young age, he has been successful at every level that he has raced at. It is nice to see his poise and tenacity on the race track as I think that will translate well to his driving at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 500. He reminds me of the two other recent young drivers that we have in our program, Kyle Larson and Dylan Kwasniewski.”

Karam is CGR’s first open-wheel developmental driver since Alex Lloyd; Lloyd made his Indianapolis 500 debut under similar conditions, in a CGR-supported second car for Rahal Letterman Racing in 2008. However with Dario Franchitti’s return to open-wheel racing ahead of the 2009 season, future opportunities for Lloyd at CGR were limited.

Meanwhile DRR, led by Dennis Reinbold, temporarily suspended their efforts after last year’s Indianapolis 500. Kingdom Racing has worked with Davey Hamilton previously, and although Hamilton was not named in today’s release, it’s anticipated he’ll be part of the leadership structure of this program. Hamilton has been working on putting together an entry for this year’s Indianapolis 500.

This brings the number of confirmed driver/car combinations to 30, with two more cars already expected for 32, and a 33rd to come.

Marvin Musquin’s Indy win may have come too late

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Marvin Musquin answered one question at Indianapolis last week, but the biggest one may well plague him for the next six weeks.

Musquin has won a battle, but can he win the war?

After standing on the podium in eight of the first 10 races, Musquin finally showed the field he was capable of winning in Indy when he grabbed the holeshot and led every lap on the way to Victory Lane. He was never seriously challenged and it was the Musquin that Supercross fans expected to see all season.

It was a long time coming. Musquin must have felt like victory was just around the corner after finishing second in the overall standings in Anaheim II’s Triple Crown race. He was third in the first Main that night and second in the last two Mains.

As it turned out, that single race defined his season until last week. Musquin stood on the podium all night, but he finished two spots behind Cooper Webb in the first Main and was one spot back in the second. It was only as time ran out that he was able to beat Webb by a single spot in the third Main. If Musquin had won either of the first two Mains, he would have had the overall victory – denying Webb his first career win in the process.

Webb’s Anaheim win revitalized the rider and gave him the confidence to rattle off four more wins in the next seven races.

Meanwhile, Musquin scored podium finishes in the next seven races, making him almost perfect. In another season, a record like that would have been enough to give him a comfortable points lead. In 2019, he sit 14 markers out of first, which is the points’ equivalent of the difference between first and 11th in one race. In other words, Webb cannot lose the points lead at Seattle unless he finishes outside the top 10 while his teammate wins.

Looking at the numbers another way the scenario is not quite as hopeless. Musquin needs to shave only 2.3 points off Webb’s lead each week to win the championship. Three points separate first and second. Five points differentiates first from third, which is where Webb finished in Indianapolis. Webb is vulnerable as his 10th-place finish at Glendale and an eighth at San Diego attest.

Those bobbles came early and Webb seems to have forgotten how to make a mistake.

A third-place is Webb’s worst finish in the last six weeks and since Anaheim II when Musquin started his impressive string of podium finishes, Webb has recorded an average finish of 2.2. That came with a worst finish of eighth on an extremely muddy and heavy track in San Diego. Musquin has a worst finish of only sixth, but his average of 2.8 still lags behind Webb.

Worse still, since Anaheim II Musquin has finished behind Webb in every race except for the outlier of San Diego.

It is no longer a question of keeping pressure on Webb. Musquin cannot expect his teammate to make a mistake; he has to find a way to pass him on the track. If Webb adds only two points to his lead at Seattle, Musquin’s fate would no longer be in his hands. He would need to gain 3.2 points per race. With that scenario, Webb could finish one spot behind Musquin every week and still win the championship.