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Sage Karam spins at Mid-Ohio – INDYCAR decides it wasn’t on purpose to help teammate Scott Dixon

August 6, 2015
Sage Karam is only 20 years old - Anne Proffit photo

Sage Karam is only 20 years old – Anne Proffit photo

All the SK$ haters in INDYCAR-land are likely fuming at this point because Verizon IndyCar Series officials did not come down on Sage Karam, the rookie driver of Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 8 Chevrolet. Karam, decidedly young (20) and ambitious, has gotten lots of flak this year for his aggressive driving. INDYCAR elected not to penalize him for the late-race spin – there were no on-track penalties in the Wednesday roundup.

Coach Dario Franchitti knows when to praise, castigate Karam - Anne Proffit photo

Coach Dario Franchitti knows when to praise, castigate Karam – Anne Proffit photo

It’s hard to remember a race this year where his competitors didn’t castigate Karam, even though his driving coach, four-time INDYCAR champion Dario Franchitti has been alternately damning and praising the kid throughout the 14 races held so far. When he’s earned it, Karam has received kudos from the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner; when he’s earned it, Karam has received constructive criticism from the Scot. Anyone that knows Dario realizes he’s not about to mince words. Even engineer Eric Cowdin, who’s worked with Tony Kanaan most of his career is impressed with Sage Karam. And that’s not something to sniff about.

Eric Cowdin is a seasoned engineer with just the right amount of patience to work with Karam - Anne Proffit photo

Eric Cowdin is a seasoned engineer with just the right amount of patience to work with Karam – Anne Proffit photo

And so it comes down to next weekend’s Pocono 500, the final gem in the Triple Crown of 500-mile oval races on the Indy car schedule. Sebastian Saavedra is scheduled to drive the season finale in the No. 8; the two have split duty in this car through the 16-race 2015 campaign. The Pocono race is a “home” event for Karam, who lives in nearby Nazareth, also home to some guys named Andretti…

Karam at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, practicing for his second Indy 500 - Anne Proffit photo

Karam at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, practicing for his second Indy 500 – Anne Proffit photo

Karam caused the third of four caution periods in last Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course when he spun in the fourth turn, a notoriously difficult corner to take flat. The rookie said his car had been loose for much of the weekend and he was on his in-lap for final service when the spin occurred, causing four laps of caution from 66-69 of the 90-lap contest.

Karam would have taken pole for the second Detroit race had INDYCAR not thrown time trials out, due to weather concerns - Anne Proffit photo

Karam would have taken pole for the second Detroit race had INDYCAR not thrown time trials out, due to weather concerns – Anne Proffit photo

He spun in the turn and stalled. It happens, in particular when a driver is told to give it a good lap before pitting for service. “I think I lost track of the speed I was carrying into the apex of the turn,” and he dropped a wheel off. It happens. And it happens especially when you’re running in the top 15, on the lead lap and told to give a stellar in-lap.

Karam eventually finished a lap down to winner Graham Rahal and was the next-to-last driver still running in 22nd place (teammate Charlie Kimball was 23rd). He didn’t help anyone with his spin – not himself, certainly not fourth-finisher Scott Dixon, who is still in the running for this year’s title or points leader Juan Pablo Montoya, who placed 11th on the day after strategy turned on the Colombian, leaving him with a meager nine-point gap to winner Graham Rahal.

Haters will hate Sage Karam for his ride with Chip Ganassi Racing, his thrust behind the wheel of the No. 8 Chevy Indy car, for his youth and capabilities – maybe even for his podium at Iowa? But giving the kid grief for a spin that cost him dearly in the finishing position of this race is just a bit over the top.

Words and Photos By Anne Proffit

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