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.