Big gamble on rookie pays off
Southsider Voice correspondent
What is a “Sage Karam”?
Well ... it’s a person, and the 19-year-old is a rising star in IndyCar racing.
The square-shouldered athletic-appearing driver is the 2013 Firestone Indy Lights champion who has worked his way through Mazda’s road courses to the Indy program.
Karam is the development driver of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, and he hails from Nazareth, Penn., home of the famed Andretti racing family.
He missed his senior prom to qualify for Sunday’s 98th running of the Indianapolis 500, but he was crowned “prom king” with his girlfriend during a special ceremony last week inside the Dreyer & Reinbold/Kingdom Racing team garage in Gasoline Alley.
Karam is also the driver that team co-owner and Greenwood auto dealership owner Dennis Reinbold took a big risk on for the 500, but he finished ninth one of the most dramatic races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and was awarded $270,305 in prize money and awards from the IMS.
“I was nervous about running a rookie,” said Reinbold. “But this kid just impressed from early on and could not have done a better job.”
It was the second-best finish at Indy by a driver for Reinbold, who saw Oriol Servia finish fourth in 2012.
“Our first pit stop we gained five spots and our next stop we gained four,” Reinbold said. “All were green flag stops, and he had never done pit stops before. We just knocked it out of the park.”
Reinbold said Karam would have had a shot at a top-five finish but they were caught refueling one lap before a late-race caution.
Karam was one of 11 American drivers among the 33 starters in the race, which was won by a fellow American Ryan Hunter-Reay for team owner Michael Andretti’s third 500 win as an owner. Andretti Autosport drivers were first, third and fourth, with NASCAR star Kurt Busch sixth for the team.
Dreyer & Reinbold-Kingdom reached the finals of the pit stop contest on Carb Day, defeating crews from A.J. Foyt Enterprises and Team Penske but falling to Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Scott Dixon by a half-second in the final round.
Busch, Indy’s Sunoco Rookie of the Year, became the fourth driver to race in the 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600. He completed 271 laps at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway before losing a cylinder and dropping out. Busch was attempting to be the first driver since his NASCAR team co-owner Tony Stewart to finish both races.
“To feel the stock car right after driving the IndyCar was a day I’ll never forget,” Busch said.
Team founder back in pit box
Team co-founder Johnny O’Gara returned to the pit box Sunday to handle Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s second team in the 500 with Canadian Alex Tagliani, who finished 13th after gaining five spots during the final seven laps.
Primary driver Josef Newgarden, who was among the fastest drivers at the track this month, started eighth but was gathered into a crash under caution and placed a disappointing 30th.
Tagliani led three laps (171-173) under a pit cycle.
O’Gara said they were victimized by 149 laps of green flag racing. They wanted a stop under caution so the crew could take out wing. Tagliani kept working with tools inside the cockpit to get the car more balanced.
Newgarden was among the top 10 but ran out of fuel on the 123rd lap, and he had difficulty in refiring the engine after pitting. On Lap 168 he slowed for a caution, but rookie Martin Plowman did not brake in time and struck Newgarten’s car from behind.
The Verizon IndyCar Series resumes Saturday and Sunday with the Indy Duel in Detroit.
Roncalli grad second
Beech Grove resident and Roncalli graduate Kyle O’Gara finished second to Tracy Hines of New Castle in the Honda USAC pavement midget race Saturday at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg.
O’Gara qualified third at 21.595 seconds and led the first three circuits of the 50-lap race during the 69th annual Night Before the 500. He is second in series points.
Southside second-generation drivers Quentin White and Kimmie Greig captured Junior Hornets and Junior Faskarts features Saturday at the Indianapolis Speedrome.
Mark Tunny won the main event, the third annual 125-lap U.S, Figure-8 Championship, and Casey White of Greenwood finished third.
Racing resumes with a 75-lap figure-8 for late models at 7 p.m. Saturday.