Sage Karam scores first podium, draws angry message from Ed Carpenter (VIDEO)


First there was the bird. Then came a shaken fist.

Directed at Sage Karam, both were safely delivered at 175 mph by Ed Carpenter, who didn’t necessarily feel safe with less than 18 laps left in the Iowa Corn 300.

Karam, a rookie, was racing too close and rough for Carpenter’s liking. The fist went up after Carpenter was nearly run into the wall out of Turn 4.

But the driver-owner of CFH Racing had more to share with the 20-year-old. After exiting his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet following his sixth-place finish, Carpenter marched down pit road to Karam, who was perched on his red No. 8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Ganassi Chevy.

With a crowd and TV cameras watching, Carpenter gave his spiel to Karam, dropping a curse word or two before telling him, “You’ve got to learn some respect” and “You need to grow up” then marching off.

“He has no respect for anyone out there,” Carpenter told NBCSN’s Katie Hargitt. “He’d be hurting himself and other people. It’s cool Ryan (Hunter-Reay) won the race. American’s kicked butt. I was good for third or fourth. I do safe driving. I save Sage’s butt and he gets the podium. He should have been penalized on the spot.”

Karam, who earned his first career podium finish, was dismissive of Carpenter, claiming he was just returning the favor.

“He said I squeezed him. But it’s the same way he drove me,” Karam said. “I’m going for wins. It’s close racing. It’s IndyCar. Ain’t go-karts. We’re professionals. Tough luck for him, I don’t know.”

With G-loads of 4-4.5 in the corners, Karam claimed the race at Iowa Speedway was one of the toughest he’s ever ran.

“The steering became heavier,” Karam said. “My arms really were close to falling out.”

Karam said the goal of Chip Ganassi Racing, or at least his, entering the race was to help Scott Dixon get as many championship points as possible.

The plan changed. Charlie Kimball crashed on Lap 170,  Tony Kanaan – with five straight Iowa podiums – went fell out 19 laps later with a mechanical issue.

Then the centerpiece to the plan fell, with Dixon forced to go to the garage on Lap 234. That left an entire team’s hopes for a win – Ganassi’s 100th – on the shoulders of a winless rookie who wasn’t even born when it was founded.

“I was content to ride behind Dixon,” Karam said. “But when he was out I went for the win.”

Going for the win triggered the bird, a shook fist, and a lecture.

Ford Mustang GT3 test has Austin Cindric dreaming of Daytona: ‘I want to drive that car’

Cindric Ford GT3 test
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Austin Cindric wasn’t the “mystery” test driver behind the wheel of the new Ford Mustang GT3 at Sebring International Raceway, but the Team Penske driver desperately wanted to be.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, an amateur sports car driver himself, made the big reveal via a Tuesday tweet that provided the first video evidence of the GT3 Mustang on track.

“I’ve watched the video in question about a million times,” Cindric said Wednesday during a Ford Performance Zoom news conference to promote NASCAR’s first road course weekend of the season at Circuit of the Americas. “Definitely exciting times for sure. I want to drive that car. It suits my experience level and also the relationships that I have.”

Ford will enter the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next season with its GT3 Mustang, entering a two-car factory effort (that will be managed by Multimatic) in GTD Pro and making customer cars available in the GT Daytona category.

That increases the likelihood of seeing more NASCAR drivers crossing over to IMSA. Cindric has been the only full-time Cup driver in the Rolex 24 at Daytona the past two years, but Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook has said the GT3 Mustang will provide more opportunities.

Ford has used its GT4 Mustang as a NASCAR driver development tool in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Harrison Burton and Zane Smith combining to win the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in January.

“We’re excited about the Next Gen car and the new architecture there and the similarities between that car and GT3 and even GT4 cars,” Rushbrook said at the announcement of the Ford GT3 program in January 2022 at Daytona. “We think it’s a great opportunity and to do be able to do that in a 24-hour race and get NASCAR drivers even more time is something we need to consider taking advantage of that opportunity.”

Given his sports car background, Cindric probably still would be in the Rolex 24 regardless. He has eight IMSA starts since the 2017 season opener at Daytona, racing a Lexus RCF GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT category. The 2022 Daytona 500 winner made his second LMP2 start this year with Rick Ware Racing.

But Cindric’s preference naturally would be in a Ford, particularly with sports car racing enjoying convergence and crossovers in both GT and prototype racing.

“It’s an exciting time in GT racing, just as it is now for prototype racing with a lot of new regulations and manufacturers building new GT3 cars,” he said. “And also the opportunity with WEC (the World Endurance Championship) and Le Mans and how that all lines up for that category of car. It’s definitely an exciting time. I want to be as much of a part of that as possible.”

Though those odds seemingly will increase with multiple Ford entries in the Rolex 24 field next year, Cindric said NASCAR drivers still have to put in the networking to land rides as he has in recent years.

“Now how (the GT3 Mustang) relates to specifically NASCAR drivers and how often they want to be in the Rolex, could it be an influence? Absolutely, as far as the tie-in with the manufacturer,” Cindric said. “But the challenge and the drive and the logistics of getting an opportunity for a race like the Rolex 24 will be just as challenging as it always is to find your one-off ride for the race. At least from my experience, that’s what I still anticipate.”

It turned out the “mystery” test driver wasn’t from NASCAR (Farley revealed the driver to be 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Joey Hand after a fan asked whether it was Joey Logano).

But Cindric believes there could be more Cup drivers — and perhaps himself — behind the wheel of Mustang GT3s in the future.

“There’s definitely more of a pathway than I think there would be before as far as Ford drivers are concerned,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to drive that thing. It’s obviously a great looking car. That’s the first box you’ve got to check. And it’s cool (to have) a guy like Jim Farley, no doubt he’s a racer just as much as he is steering the ship for Ford. It’s cool to see he’s just as excited as the rest of us about it.”