Karam’s Mid-Ohio spin triggers frustration, skepticism from IndyCar paddock

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LEXINGTON, Ohio – For the second straight race, Sage Karam was one of the biggest stories in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

And for the second straight race, something Karam did on track undoubtedly created talking points.

On Lap 66, Karam spun from the right-handed Turn 4 up the hill into the left-handed, banked Turn 5, in a lazy spin that brought out the third and most crucial full-course caution of the race.

A handful of cars, including race winner Graham Rahal, pitted just before the yellow came out.

Karam’s spin is subject to a post-race review from INDYCAR.

Karam explained his view of the spin, because it seemed somewhat controversial at the time after Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan pitted on Laps 63 and 64, respectively.

“It was just a very sketchy corner, you’re carrying a lot of speed in there,” Karam told MotorSportsTalk in a post-race interview.

“I was on my in lap actually. I was gonna pit that lap. I guess my brakes were getting a bit hot, the team said. They wanted me to go to the front on the brake bias. I was looking down and I was turning the front brake bias about two clicks.

“I just lost track of the apex, I didn’t lose track of the apex, I just lost track of my speed going to the apex. Bounced off the curb, going too fast, dropped a wheel on the exit and looped it. I almost did the same thing yesterday.

“Just unfortunate because the car was really really fast. If a different yellow fell our way, not necessarily my own yellow, I think we could have had a good race.”

INDYCAR’s outgoing president of competition and operations, Derrick Walker, told Trackside Online’s Steve Wittich that there will be a thorough investigation into the spin.

“Sage ran off the track, and it’s something we always look for, is whether there is any team tactics involved,” Walker told TSO. “When full course yellows changes the strategy a little bit for people.

“So, as a standard procedure we look at these all the time, and now our new procedure is if we’re looking at it and it could potentially result in a penalty, and I’m not saying the one could, we always want to announce it so nobody is surprised if it comes up later on.

“I don’t think it’s there, but what we do is we take all the video, and all the car data, and radio communication and we try to piece it all together just to make sure. No accusation that he did, but standard procedure for us actually.”

The spin and subsequent yellow wound up benefiting Rahal, but hurting a number of others, including but not limited to points leader Juan Pablo Montoya, Sebastien Bourdais and Josef Newgarden.

Rahal was pleased, rather humorously, considering not even 24 hours earlier he was irate at Karam for alleged blocking during qualifying.

“My buddy!” Rahal joked in the post-race press conference.

“I had no clue who it was, or where it was. I was being held up by Montoya and Newgarden. The guys told me Wilson came in. We can’t lose to Wilson. We have to cover.

“So I was expecting them to peel in the pits with me. Two lapped cars held us up. Don’t know why, but they didn’t.”

Montoya was understandably miffed.

“When everyone else pitted they had to save fuel from that point. It was hard for them to make it without a caution,” Montoya told NBCSN’s Jon Beekhuis post-race.

“And you know, it’s kind of weird that all the Ganassi cars pitted and Sage spins. So it is what it is. I don’t know if it was on purpose or not, but I hear the spin was really dodgy.”

Montoya’s answer to the question on whether there was foul play was: “Karma is a bitch, so we’ll see.”

Further frustration occurred from Bourdais, who was caught out by another yellow, when the second yellow for debris on Lap 21 flew.

“When the debris came out and the yellow closed the pits, it was game over,” the KVSH Racing driver told MotorSportsTalk.

“For me, I keep on suggesting to IndyCar, give us a chance to pit. It only seems fair,” Bourdais said.

“Yellow for debris, it’s hard to juggle around. Make it to pits you don’t. Then you go full course cautions and deal with things.

“Closing the pits like that cycles guys to the front and kills the frontrunners time and time again.

“It is what it is. It’s nothing to bitch at. It’s just frustrating when you’re at the front and get hosed.”

Bourdais’ team co-owner, Jimmy Vasser, also expressed some thoughts – particularly about Karam.

“It was a very strange spin, and it was very convenient timing right after Dixon and Kanaan pitted,” Vasser told MotorSportsTalk.

“We got hosed twice. The first one with the debris, I don’t know why they waited to go yellow.

“Then this one, when that happens, it’s a chance for manipulation.”

“But, hey, everything is awesome.”

If you’ve read Marshall Pruett’s post-Rule 9.3.8 satirical opinion piece on RACER.com, you’ll really appreciate that last line.

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
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Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”