The last time Sage Karam raced on a road or street course in the NTT Data IndyCar Series, the Pennsylvania native was only 20 years old. It was 2015 and he was poised for a successful career.
He had previously won an Indy Lights championship and had caught the attention of Chip Ganassi, becoming a driver for the team who ‘likes winners.’
Karam was a young, brash driver. He rubbed people the wrong way and didn’t have the success he hoped for, but now he’s back and has another shot at IndyCar with Carlin Racing this weekend on the Streets of Toronto, a chance he doesn’t take for granted with a mature attitude.
“I think just growing up in general; age and knowledge, you just mature as life goes on,” Karam told OnPitRoad.com. “In 2015 I was about 19 or 20 years old. Now I’m 24. I’ve come a long way. I have a steady, long-time girlfriend. Things in my life are more steady. I’ve been through a lot. When you get an opportunity back, you want to make the most of it.”
For Karam, one of the most important things in racing is maintaining your visibility, even when you aren’t racing. He credits a fellow racer to helping him with that.
“The best way to do it is to just be in the car and show you can do it. If you can’t be in a car, you have to be here and make your face known to the eyes of owners, team members and drivers,” he said. “Marco [Andretti]’s been a big help to me. He brings me to a lot of races that I’m not racing at. I like being at the races more in a driver’s suit but I understand you have to make the best with what you have.”
Karam doesn’t take lightly the fact that he’s back at a street course, and says the race at Exhibition Place is one of the toughest in the series with ever-changing track conditions and elements.
“The concrete walls and bumps and asphalt to concrete transitions humble you up. You want to go faster earlier but they force you to not. That’s the nature of street courses,” he said. They’re intimidating, but it’s not something I haven’t done before. I know I can run fast on street courses, it’s just getting it all out.
“You don’t forget how to drive a road course or a street course, but I’m at 90 per cent and I need to be at 100. You have [Scott] Dixon and [Simon] Pagenaud up front and they’re at like 105. They’re comfortable. Right now, I know I can get to 100 per cent. It’s risk versus reward. The worst thing I can do right now is go out and ball up the car.”
For now, the race in Toronto is Karam’s only scheduled start, but he’s hopeful more could be added with an expanded partnership with sponsor SmartStop.