Karam: Preparing for the thrill, challenge of Indy 500 practice

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Editor’s note: Sage Karam, 3GT Racing Lexus driver in IMSA, a past Indy Lights and USF2000 champion and Verizon IndyCar Series podium finisher, will file a series of blogs for NBCSports.com this month for a second straight year (2016 archive here).

Here’s his second entry, as he recaps a number of pre-practice media activities and the mental preparation for practice week. You can read his first blog of 2017 here. He’ll run the No. 24 Mecum Auctions Chevrolet for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, in partnership with Kingdom Racing. 


Hey again, it’s Sage Karam. And I am back in one of my favorite and happiest places now, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It’s the greatest racing track in the world for many reasons but, as a driver, you get so pumped up when you drive under the South end tunnel for the first time each year. The place is just so massive and you really have to take in the scene when you return every time.

I’m so grateful to be back at IMS and preparing for the 101st Indy 500.

And I’m grateful to Dennis Reinbold and his whole DRR team for giving me the chance to compete in this year’s Indy 500 with the No. 24 Mecum Auctions Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet Dallara. And it’s fun to write about my adventures here for the month of May with NBCSports.com.

I remember the first time I drove at IMS. It was in the Indy Lights class at the Chris Griffis Memorial Test and it was thrilling. It was on the road course, but it was so cool to see the big grandstands, the Pagoda, the scoring pylon, Gasoline Alley and the Snake Pit. It was amazing to gaze around the facility and see everything, such as the museum, the golf course, and more.

It’s a different thrill to take the first lap on the big 2.5-mile oval, the most famous oval in the world. You just are so focused on what you are doing and going that crazy speed. You forget about a lot of things in the car. But, after a while, it gets to be normal to me. Well, as normal as going 230 miles per hour can be.

But once you have a relative perception of the speed and the track, you can slow down your mind to relax and enjoy the ride. It’s funny at times. You can actually take a deep breath and see things differently after you have practiced for some time.

Of course, my first laps back at Indy will be on Monday and it does take a little bit of adjustment for the speed factor. When you’re driving the 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, it’s great. It’s a different kind of speed compared to the IndyCar, because both are so cool and fast in different ways.

The first few days of practice at Indy usually means finding a baseline for the car and yourself and work on the race trip. Conditions change so much at Indy that you have to try a variety of things in practice so you can be ready for them in the race. The heat of the track, the wind, the traffic, the turbulence of the others cars…… they make factors on how to set up the race car.

Last year, we went from 23rd to fourth before I had trouble and hit the wall on lap 93. We had a car to race up front at the Indy 500 and that is all you ask for at this place. Other elements make the difference on winning and losing then, like strategy, luck, quick pit stops. I could go on, but you get the point… it’s more than just having a great car.

This year, though, I would like to qualify better and start closer to the front of the field. That way we wouldn’t have to pass so many cars in the race to get to the front.

Plus, I know I need to be a little more patient throughout the race. But we can discuss that idea as we get closer to May 28 and 200 laps on race day.

Right now, I’m hanging out in the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing garage (B1-3) and watching my fellow competitors compete in the Indy Grand Prix. Sure, I’d like to be out there with them. We know that the bigger prize is the Indy 500 and that is our concentration for the team and myself.

Karam (center) on the Bob and Tom Show. Photo courtesy of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

So, I’ll relax little, do some media interviews and sponsor appearances and getting ready for Monday. I’m anxious to get over to the (Indiana State) Fairgrounds on Wednesday to see the Mecum Auction and those awesome cars. Check them out this coming week on NBCSN. It’s worth seeing some amazing machinery for the street too.

Talk to you next week.



Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III