Sage Karam returns to Pocono, site of crash last year

Photo: IndyCar

LONG POND, Pa. (AP) Sage Karam isn’t competing this year at Pocono Raceway. It’s been a year since a freak accident claimed the life of fellow driver Justin Wilson.

Karam was leading the IndyCar race a year ago at the 2.5-mile track in rural Pennsylvania when he spun and crashed in the closing laps. Wilson was fatally struck in the helmet by debris from Karam’s car. The 37-year-old Englishman died the next day.

For the 21-year-old Karam, it’s not so easy to understand the accident was a tragedy out of his control.

“It’s different for me,” Karam said at the racetrack, where Union Jacks flying at half-staff in honor of Wilson. “I’m not racing here this year. If I was racing, going around the track would give me some weird feelings. I know I’m here in the spot that changed my life forever.”

Karam lost his ride with Chip Ganassi after last season because of sponsorship difficulties. He’s raced in the IndyCar Series once this year – in the Indianapolis 500 in a one-off ride with Dreyer & Reinbold – and wrecked for the second straight year after briefly leading the race.

Wilson’s younger brother, Stefan, also ran the 500, a tribute to his brother and part of the healing process for both families.

“Sage and I speak a lot about Justin,” said Karam’s dad, Jody, his voice tinged with emotion. “I think as much as Sage suffered and our family feels the pain of what happened, we always keep in the back of our minds that family is suffering more.

“As a family, we’ve supported Sage and made all the right moves. I think he’s doing all the right things to get back to where he needs to be mentally and emotionally.”

Wilson’s widow and two young girls attended the Indy 500, but they won’t be at Pocono. The memory of that tragic day remains nevertheless, evidenced by the “JW” painted on the track at the finish line.

Karam, of Nazareth, Pennsylvania, knows there’s another step to take on the track.

“Every time I think about IndyCar racing, the biggest memory in my mind is that day,” he said. “I see flashbacks in Turn 1. I feel like I need to do it for myself, go through Turn 1 again flat out. I think that would be the last part of it.”

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IndyCar disappointed by delay of video game but aiming to launch at start of 2024

IndyCar video game 2024

An IndyCar executive said there is “absolutely” disappointment that its long-awaited video game recently was delayed beyond its target date, but the series remains optimistic about the new title.

“Well, I don’t know how quick it will be, but the whole situation is important to us,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said during a news conference Monday morning to announce IndyCar’s NTT title sponsorship. “Motorsport Games has spent a lot of money, a lot of effort to create an IndyCar title. What we’ve seen of that effort, which is not completely obvious, is very reassuring.

“I think it’s going to be outstanding. That’s our shared objective, that when it is released, it’s just widely accepted. A great credit both to IndyCar racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, something that our fans love.”

In June 2021, IndyCar announced a new partnership with Motorsport Games to create and distribute an IndyCar video game for the PC and Xbox and PlayStation consoles in 2023.

But during an earnings call last week, Motorsport Games said the IndyCar game had been delayed to 2024 to ensure high quality.

Somewhat compounding the delay is that IndyCar’s license for iRacing expired after the end of the 2022 season because of its exclusive agreement with Motorsport Games.

That’s resulted in significant changes for IndyCar on iRacing, which had provided a high-profile way for the series to stay visible during its 2020 shutdown from the pandemic. (Players still can race an unbranded car but don’t race on current IndyCar tracks, nor can they stream).

That’s helped ratchet up the attention on having a video game outlet for IndyCar.

“I wish we had an IndyCar title 10 years ago,” said Miles, who has been working with the organization since 2013. “We’ve been close, but we’ve had these I think speed bumps.”

IndyCar is hopeful the Motorsports Game edition will be ready at the start of 2024. Miles hinted that beta versions could be unveiled to reporters ahead of the time “to begin to show the progress in a narrow way to make sure we’ve got it right, to test the progress so that we’re ready when they’re ready.”

It’s been nearly 18 years since the release of the most recent IndyCar video game for console or PC.

“(We) better get it right,” Miles said. “It’s something we’re very close to and continue to think about what it is to make sure we get it over the line in due course.”