Ganassi’s Karam looks to make his mark after five-year journey to IndyCar


He only just turned 20, but Sage Karam has already been part of the IndyCar fabric for the last five years.

Now, he fully gets his chance to shine in the Verizon IndyCar Series as the youngest driver in Chip Ganassi Racing’s illustrious history.

Karam first emerged in the Mazda Road to Indy ladder as a 15-year-old rookie in the USF2000 Championship in 2010. He promptly won nine of the 12 races en route to the title, and moved up to Star Mazda (now Pro Mazda), where he won races in consecutive seasons.

By 2013, he inked a last-minute deal to join the powerhouse Sam Schmidt Motorsports team in Indy Lights. He won three more races and the series championship over teammate Gabby Chaves. Two races – wins at Iowa and Houston – stuck out as huge moments for him in the title campaign.

“I’d say my best race Indy Lights was at Iowa,” Karam told MotorSportsTalk in the run-up to St. Petersburg this weekend. “I started fifth and things didn’t look great, but I went fifth to second on first lap. We won that race. If I don’t win that race, I wouldn’t have won the championship. It was my best performance coming up.”

While Karam won the title, Jack Hawksworth and Carlos Munoz, who also finished behind him in that year’s championship, advanced into IndyCar full-time last year.

Karam didn’t, instead having been brought on by Ganassi as a development driver for a mix-and-match part-time schedule that focused on learning.

“I can’t believe it moves so fast,” Karam said. “I feel like it was just the other day when I was at St. Pete for the first time in USF2000, and now I’m about to make my first road course start in an IndyCar at St. Pete.

“With how fast it moves, the whole journey is pretty incredible. When you look back at the whole ride it took to get here, everyone’s help has been incredible to have.”

Even so, it’s taken more than a year for Karam to be set for a full-time program in IndyCar.

At the moment, he’s only confirmed in the No. 8 GE LED Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet for St. Petersburg with engineer Eric Cowdin, but all indications from the team and driver is that this the first race of an expected full-time campaign. Karam has also enjoyed longtime support from Michael Fux of Comfort Revolution, and recent support from Big Machine Records.

Karam’s opportunity with Ganassi arose over the 2013-2014 offseason, just around Christmas, and he made his team debut in the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona.

A handful of further sports car starts followed, with a standout drive in his second start in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring raising some eyebrows on a bigger stage.

Karam described how those couple starts helped prepare him for his biggest moment of 2014, his debut in the Indianapolis 500 in a Ganassi-supported entry fielded by Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and Kingdom Racing that was easily worthy of race rookie-of-the-year honors.

“Daytona and Sebring, those were my first really ever professional debut races,” Karam explained. “People knew of me a bit from Indy Lights, but not yet on a professional stage. It was really good for me to have the performances I did and show that we could compete. It helped me get to this spot right now with the IndyCar guys.”

The Nazareth, Pa. native has been like a sponge in soaking up information from teammates Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball.

But the driver who stands out most to him is Dario Franchitti, the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and four-time series champion, who is coaching Karam.

“When you have Dario Franchitti helping you out, that’s a pretty big deal right there,” Karam said. “I take everything he says and listen in 100 percent to apply it.

“That helps eliminate the rookie mistakes that I can make and make it as smooth as possible. I’m a rookie and will make mistakes, like what happened at Barber (had a testing accident, but since has returned). If I didn’t have Dario, I’d have made a lot more mistakes.”

Karam praised Dixon’s fuel saving ability in particular as something he’s trying to absorb.

“I think one of the biggest things I learned is that Scott Dixon is absolutely amazing,” Karam said. “Out of any data trace I’ve ever seen, he’s unbelievable.

“The biggest thing I’m learning right now is how to save fuel. He’s the best in the game right now at that.”

Karam expects Chaves to be his toughest contender in the rookie-of-the-year battle, with Stefano Coletti and Luca Filippi also figuring in on the road and street courses.

As he heads to St. Petersburg this weekend, Karam reflected on the journey, the Ganassi opportunity and his presence as a young standout American driver who could emerge as a future star.

“It’s definitely an honor,” he said. “Driving for Chip Ganassi is incredible, and it shows how they’ve taken notice of me at this stage. After coming up through the ranks, I can’t thank everyone enough. It’s been a long journey.

“I love this country and representing it is definitely a great feeling. I’ll do my best. I know this series has needed some young American talent. You’ll start to see a bit of young Americans coming through, including hopefully my good friend Zach Veach.

“I’m hoping to succeed. Driving for Chip, he can have any driver in the paddock he wants. It’s an honor. It can be short-lived. So I have to give it my all.”

IndyCar results, points after Detroit Grand Prix


DETROIT — Alex Palou topped the results of an NTT IndyCar Series race for the second time this season, extending his championship points lead with his victory in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who also won the GMR Grand Prix (and the Indy 500 pole position) last month, holds a 51-point lead over teammate Marcus Ericsson (ninth at Detroit) through seven of 17 races this season.

Ganassi, which placed all four of its drivers in the top 10 at Detroit, has three of the top four in the championship standings with Scott Dixon ranked fourth after a fourth at Detroit.

FLAVOR FLAV POWERS UP: Iconic rapper hangs out with Team Penske

Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden is third in the standings after taking a 10th at Detroit. Pato O’Ward slipped to fifth in the points after crashing and finishing 26th

Here are the IndyCar results and points standings after the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix:


Click here for the official box score from the 100-lap race on a nine-turn, 1.645-mile street course in downtown Detroit.

Lap leader summary

Full lap chart

Best section times

Full section data

Event summary

Pit stop summary

Here is the finishing order in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix with starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (1) Alex Palou, Honda, 100, Running
2. (7) Will Power, Chevrolet, 100, Running
3. (9) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 100, Running
4. (4) Scott Dixon, Honda, 100, Running
5. (13) Alexander Rossi, Chevrolet, 100, Running
6. (12) Kyle Kirkwood, Honda, 100, Running
7. (2) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 100, Running
8. (11) Marcus Armstrong, Honda, 100, Running
9. (6) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 100, Running
10. (5) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 100, Running
11. (24) Colton Herta, Honda, 100, Running
12. (17) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 100, Running
13. (8) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 100, Running
14. (20) Agustin Canapino, Chevrolet, 100, Running
15. (15) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 100, Running
16. (18) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 100, Running
17. (25) Jack Harvey, Honda, 100, Running
18. (14) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 100, Running
19. (23) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 100, Running
20. (19) Benjamin Pedersen, Chevrolet, 97, Running
21. (22) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 97, Running
22. (26) Sting Ray Robb, Honda, 97, Running
23. (21) David Malukas, Honda, 85, Contact
24. (3) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 80, Contact
25. (27) Graham Rahal, Honda, 50, Contact
26. (10) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 41, Contact
27. (16) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 1, Contact

Winner’s average speed: 80.922 mph; Time of Race: 02:01:58.1171; Margin of victory: 1.1843 seconds; Cautions: 7 for 32 laps; Lead changes: 10 among seven drivers. Lap Leaders: Palou 1-28; Power 29-33; O’Ward 34; Palou 35-55; Power 56-64; Palou 65; Rossi 66; Newgarden 67-68; Kirkwood 69; Ericsson 70-76; Palou 77-100.


Click here for the points tally in the race.

Here are the points standings after the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix:



Engine manufacturers

Pit stop performance

Top 10 in points: Palou 273, Ericsson 222, Newgarden 203, Dixon 194, O’Ward 191, Rossi 176, McLaughlin 175, Power 172, Herta 149, Rosenqvist 148.

Rest of the standings: Grosjean 145, Kirkwood 142, Lundgaard 136, Ilott 116, VeeKay 108, Ferrucci 105, Armstrong 101, Rahal 99, Malukas 91, Daly 88, DeFrancesco 81, Castroneves 80, Harvey 78, Canapino 77, Pagenaud 72, Pedersen 61, Robb 55, Takuma Sato 37, Ed Carpenter 27, Ryan Hunter-Reay 20, Tony Kanaan 18, Marco Andretti 13, RC Enerson 5, Katherine Legge 5.

Next race: IndyCar will head to Road America for the Sonsio Grand Prix, which will take place June 18 with coverage starting at 1 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock.