Sage Karam looking to reignite IndyCar career

Photo: IndyCar
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Sage Karam has endured a stop-start racing career ever since winning a championship in what is now called the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship in 2013.

Karam only competed in one Verizon IndyCar Series event in 2014 – the Indianapolis 500 with Dreyer and Reinbold Racing – where he finished an impressive ninth after starting 31st. He contested 12 of 16 races in 2015 with Chip Ganassi Racing, highlighted by a third-place finish at Iowa Speedway, but he and the Chip Ganassi squad parted ways at the end of the year.

He was contracted to the new 3GT Racing Lexus program in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2016, but with their new Lexus RC F GT3 machines not ready for competition that year, Karam’s only race in 2016 was again at the Indianapolis 500, back with Dreyer and Reinbold Racing, where he charged forward after starting 24th only to crash just after he entered the top five on lap 93.

He was able to have a full season of racing in IMSA in 2017 in the aforementioned 3GT Lexus program and returned to the Indy 500, again with Dreyer and Reinbold, but a battery failure saw him retire on lap 125 and he finished in 28th.

After parting ways with 3GT, Karam again finds himself without a full-time racing seat, though he has announced another Indy 500 effort with Dreyer and Reinbold, the fourth time driver and team will run together.

Though he is still quite young – Karam turns 23 on Monday – he is acutely aware that he needs to prove his worth in order to once again become a full-time driver.

Sage Karam and Dreyer and Reinbold Racing will team up for their fourth Indy 500 effort in 2018. Photo: IndyCar

“This is my only race on the schedule this year so far. So for me, I come into this race thinking that I need to do well to show everybody that I belong,” Karam revealed in a teleconference last week. “IndyCar is where my heart is. It’s where I really do believe I belong, and in order for me to show that to everybody, I need to perform well.”

Consequently, Karam says finishing well at the Indy 500 has his full attention at the moment, with the goal of using it as a springboard to run other races in 2018.

“I’m just going into Indy right now 100 percent focused and just trying to get the best result there, and then hopefully after that, if that goes the way we think it’s going to go, that will parlay into maybe something else down the road and maybe later this year,” said the Nazareth, Pennsylvania native.

And while he admits IndyCar remains his main goal, Karam is also keen to impress teams from other series as well.

“I’d obviously really like to maybe do some more IndyCar races, or if different opportunities in other series open up, of course I’d jump on it. I’m a racer; I’ll race anything any time,” he asserted.

Dennis Reinbold, co-owner of Dreyer and Reinbold Racing, is also keen to become a full-time IndyCar entrant again, having been an Indy-only entrant since 2014 (the team ran the first five races of 2013 with Oriol Servia, but stopped after that year’s Indy 500 as a result of sponsorship issues).

“We’ve had these discussions (about going full-time), and that is definitely something that we’ve talked about with very great interest is trying to get back to full-time or even, to start off, a little bit part-time to get back into it,” Reinbold explained. “But we’re working on things. We’ve got some opportunities out there that we’re exploring and trying to see where they go.”

Reinbold added that running two cars at this year’s 500, which he confirmed in the announcement of Karam’s effort, is a part of that plan, as he believes it will give them an improved infrastructure to do so.

“To get to two cars this year for the 500 is on purpose, because that sets us up to have equipment, so we have extra wheel guns, we have extra tires, we have extra radios, all these things, spares,” he detailed. “So that puts us in position to be able to try to expand in the future. And you would need all those pieces to be able to be a full-time team.”

Karam echoed Reinbold’s sentiments, adding that a full-time effort with Dreyer and Reinbold is something he would like to see happen, but he also asserted that Indy is currently the main focus for both driver and team.

“You know, I would love to be in a full-time seat with Dennis (Reinbold),” Karam added. “I think if we can have a strong showing here and hopefully we can get more partners to come on board, maybe that’s something that will be discussed down the road. But as for now, I think he’s just focused on doing the best job he can, I’m focused on doing the best job I can, and we’ll let the rest just fall into place after that.”

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Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.