Avid sim racer Sage Karam previews IndyCar’s iRacing Challenge

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The NTT IndyCar Series will return to action, virtually at least, for the first race of the new iRacing Challenge this Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.

Twenty-six cars and drivers will take part in the first of six races.

Dreyer & Rinebold Racing’s Sage Karam also will compete in Saturday’s race. Karam is no stranger to iRacing. The 25-year-old has his own personal iRacing set up on his computer at home, which he practices on almost daily.

IndyCar recently released a Q&A with Karm about what fans should know about iRacing:

How serious are IndyCar drivers about sim racing on their personal computers?

“I’d say about 30 percent are into sim racing and about 15 percent are religious about it. If you’ve jumped in an actual simulator (as professional drivers have) and know how to drive a race car like we do, there’s a pretty decent chance you’re going to be competitive.”

What level of equipment does an IndyCar driver need to be competitive Saturday?

“Honestly, if they’ve got a decent computer that can run the software they should be fine. Anyone who is serious has good stuff. Like, I’ve got a pretty good set of pedals that I can calibrate to my liking. I like it to feel how hard you have to hit the brakes in an Indy car to stop it. But it’s like anything else, it can get expensive. When I started, I had a (combined) pedal and steering wheel unit that cost me $300. Now, my pedals alone cost $1,500, and I have three monitors. It can get pretty crazy, like racing does.”

Is the sensation similar to driving on an actual track?

“You’re feeling the strength it takes to drive an actual car, but you’re not feeling the little details. That feeling in your butt or feeling when the car bottoms out or loses traction or slides. You don’t get those little details. But it’s pretty close in a lot of ways.”

Would you rather virtually race on a road course or an oval?

“I think a road course puts on a better show; it would go a lot smoother and be a better show than an oval. When you’re on a simulator you have no fear of getting hurt, so on an oval, you’re not scared to make a mistake. You can make it three-wide going into a corner where you’d never do that in real life and if you wreck it’s like … ‘OK.’ So, on a road course, there are a lot fewer yellows and that makes for a better show.”

Everyone in this race will have the same car setup, which takes away some of the advantages you might have as an experienced sim racer. Is that the best way?

“Yes. We want this to be a competitive race. With open setups, I would do better, for sure. But for fairness, this is the best thing for everyone and the fans.”

Obviously, large gatherings have been shuttered for the next several weeks. Do you find a simulated race to be a good alternative for the IndyCar Series and its fans?

“We all know why we can’t (gather in large groups). We’re the only sport that can do something like this. It’s a win-win for all of us. It gives us something to compete in, and it’s cool for the fans. It’s a pretty good solution with everything that’s going on.”


Live coverage of Saturday’s race will be streamed through indycar.com for fans to enjoy the action. It also will be available on INDYCAR’s YouTube and Facebook as well as iRacing’s Twitch.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”