Karam’s homecoming: Sage set to race in front of family, friends at Pocono


It’s not that racing there two years ago in Indy Lights wasn’t a big deal, but for Sage Karam, this Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 is the first real “home race” he’ll get at Pocono Raceway.

The 20-year-old is set to close out his rookie season in the Verizon IndyCar Series in front of an onslaught of family, friends and supporters.

And hopefully, his dog Max.

“I’ll try to bring him up one of the days,” Karam says of the dog that got an unexpected amount of publicity thanks to a now-infamous, since deleted Instagram post of the two together. “Only problem would be where to keep him when I’m on track. If I can figure it out, I’ll bring Max along. Get some funny photos out of it.”

The lighthearted tone to end our chat on Monday comes in the midst of a serious reality facing Karam: unlike the rest of the field, he won’t be going onto Sonoma next weekend with a chance at truly ending his season on a high, or even with a shot at usurping past Indy Lights title rival Gabby Chaves for the season-long rookie-of-the-year honors.


Karam has been on a sponsor-dependent first-year program at Chip Ganassi Racing, the team’s first rookie in ages, but will have missed four out of 16 races this season.

Pocono, his home race, is his last shot this season in the No. 8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, barring a last-minute opportunity of a fifth car being assembled or being farmed out to another team.

It’s all of those factors that have Karam laser-focused on doing the best job possible in his final 2015 audition before 2016, which isn’t guaranteed yet.

“There’s a little added pressure,” Karam said. “It’s people that have been there my whole life. Besides Indianapolis, this would be the next biggest one I want to win.

“It’s the hype of it. This is the one race, where I had a lot of people come out to Indianapolis and wasn’t able to show them much of a good race. But this one, this is an opportunity. Hopefully I get through Turn 1 this time. I just need to put my head down, and bring home a good result.”

Karam’s Indianapolis 500 misstep was arguably his biggest blemish of the year. The first lap, first turn contact with Takuma Sato to his outside and Ryan Hunter-Reay on the inside wiped out a month’s worth of great speed and great hopes for a good result.

Detroit a week later was the nadir of his season. Several penalties followed in a disastrous second race of the weekend, and also earned him a stern talking to from Ganassi driver coach and adviser Dario Franchitti.


Since then, Karam has embarked on a significant turnaround. Texas was improved, Fontana was his first top-five finish, Milwaukee his best start of third, and Iowa a month ago his first podium, even though the latter race earned him a number of headlines for his aggressive style and battle with Ed Carpenter.

Karam’s oval skills have never been in doubt throughout his development in the Mazda Road to Indy, or in his first IndyCar season. So it’s with that in mind he thinks Pocono can produce another podium result, if not his first career victory to follow the trend of “firsts.”

“I’ve done better this year on the ovals and super speedways,” Karam said. “Super speedways gel well with me. This one’s tricky. Turn 1 gets a lot tighter than you think it is. I know in the Indy Lights car, every time you went in there, you prayed it would stick. I can’t imagine it with an extra 20-30 mph. I talked to my teammates and it’s one of the hardest turns on the schedule. The extra hour for us on Saturday will help get me up to speed quicker.”

Karam also admitted that he can’t expect to get away with too loose a race car at Pocono, as he could at Iowa.

“This year has been really tough because you lose the rear end … you don’t want to set it up to understeer,” he said. “If you set it up too free, it’ll be too loose. Going 220-230, if car gets loose, things happen at a quicker rate.

“I got away with driving a looser car there, but I probably wouldn’t at a track like Pocono. It’ll come down to who’s got the best car in 1 and 3. If you have a solid car and you can stay flat, you’ll be able to make passes.”


Karam has also done his best Taylor Swift imitation in acknowledging while the haters may hate, he’s shaken off the controversy that’s followed his name the last two races – at Iowa when he raced hard, and at Mid-Ohio when some competitors drew conclusions about his spin at Turn 5.

“As far as what’s happened in the past, that’s all in the past,” he said. “I don’t think other drivers are gonna be like, ‘Oh, he did this, so I’ll go out and block him, or even put me off the track, or even talk to me.’ It’s just another weekend. Move forward.”


It’s easy to forget given how long he’s been in the open-wheel ladder, and now in IndyCar, that at 20, Karam hasn’t enjoyed the typical life of a teenager to early-20-year-old. Seeing friends before they go off to a college is a reminder of what he’s not experiencing, while his friends get to see something they don’t do on a regular basis.

“I spent some time with family and friends the last few weeks,” says Karam, who’s been in his hometown of Nazareth since Mid-Ohio. ‘They’re all headed off to college, and I probably won’t see them again ’til Thanksgiving.

“I always tell my dad (Jody), ‘Ah man, I wish I could go to college, miss the college experience.’ I think about what it would be like if I went to college. But then I bet they wonder what it’s like to go 230 mph in an IndyCar.”

Karam will be able to prep for this weekend’s race from the comforts of his own home – he lives in nearby Nazareth, just 20 minutes from the track.

“The hype is having so many family and friends, a lot of support, with a whole Sage Karam section up in the bleachers. They’ll be cheering.

“It’s a cool thing in front of my natural home. These are the people that will be behind me, both in the race car and as a person off the track. There will be a lot of my wrestling teammates, a lot of first-time race attendees. It’s important to show them a good result.

“It’s only about 20 minutes away. So I won’t have to stay in a hotel room, I’ll be in my own Comfort Revolution bed, and can get some good nights sleep. That’s always good.

“If we win, we’ll have a team party at my house.”

Winner Josef Newgarden earns $3.666 million from a record Indy 500 purse of $17 million


INDIANAPOLIS — The first Indy 500 victory for Josef Newgarden also was the richest in race history from a record 2023 purse of just more than $17 million.

The two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion, who continued his celebration Monday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earned $3.666 million for winning the 107th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

The purse and winner’s share both are the largest in the history of the Indianapolis 500.

It’s the second consecutive year that the Indy 500 purse set a record after the 2022 Indy 500 became the first to crack the $16 million mark (nearly doubling the 2021 purse that offered a purse of $8,854,565 after a crowd limited to 135,000 because of the COVID-19 pandemic).

The average payout for IndyCar drivers was $500,600 (exceeding last year’s average of $485,000).

Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske, whose team also fields Newgarden’s No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet, had made raising purses a priority since buying the track in 2020. But Penske but was unable to post big money purses until the race returned to full capacity grandstands last year.

The largest Indy 500 purse before this year was $14.4 million for the 2008 Indy 500 won by Scott Dixon (whose share was $2,988,065). Ericsson’s haul made him the second Indy 500 winner to top $3 million (2009 winner Helio Castroneves won $3,048,005.

Runner-up Marcus Ericsson won $1.043 million after falling short by 0.0974 seconds in the fourth-closest finish in Indy 500 history.

The 107th Indy 500 drew a crowd of at least 330,000 that was the largest since the sellout for the 100th running in 2016, and the second-largest in more than two decades, according to track officials.

“This is the greatest race in the world, and it was an especially monumental Month of May featuring packed grandstands and intense on-track action,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “Now, we have the best end card possible for the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500: a record-breaking purse for the history books.”

Benjamin Pedersen was named the Indy 500 rookie of the year, earning a $50,000 bonus.

The race’s purse is determined through contingency and special awards from IMS and IndyCar. The awards were presented Monday night in the annual Indy 500 Victory Celebration at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.

The payouts for the 107th Indy 500:

1. Josef Newgarden, $3,666,000
2. Marcus Ericsson, $1,043,000
3. Santino Ferrucci, $481,800
4. Alex Palou, $801,500
5. Alexander Rossi, $574,000
6. Scott Dixon, $582,000
7. Takuma Sato, $217,300
8. Conor Daly, $512,000
9. Colton Herta, $506,500
10. Rinus VeeKay, $556,500
11. Ryan Hunter‐Reay, $145,500
12. Callum Ilott, $495,500
13. Devlin DeFrancesco, $482,000
14. Scott McLaughlin, $485,000
15. Helio Castroneves, $481,500
16. Tony Kanaan, $105,000
17. Marco Andretti, $102,000
18. Jack Harvey, $472,000
19. Christian Lundgaard, $467,500
20. Ed Carpenter, $102,000
21. Benjamin Pedersen (R), $215,300
22. Graham Rahal, $565,500*
23. Will Power, $488,000
24. Pato O’Ward, $516,500
25. Simon Pagenaud, $465,500
26. Agustín Canapino (R), $156,300
27. Felix Rosenqvist, $278,300
28. Kyle Kirkwood, $465,500
29. David Malukas, $462,000
30. Romain Grosjean, $462,000
31. Sting Ray Robb (R), $463,000
32. RC Enerson (R), $103,000
33.  Katherine Legge, $102,000

*–Broken down between two teams, $460,000 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, $105,500 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing/Cusick Motorsports