Few motorsports fans knew who Sage Karam was before Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, but the 19-year-old IndyCar rookie made his mark on the sport with an incredible ninth-place finish in the biggest race of the season.
After such a strong performance at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there is no doubt that the talented driver deserves to race at the top level of IndyCar.
Mike Hull of Chip Ganassi Racing talked about Karam’s future on Twitter:
Not only was Sunday’s Indy 500 the first time Karam raced at the top level on the historic course, but it was also his first career start in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
A ninth-place finish looks even more impressive now.
The 2013 Indy Lights champion started the race in 31st place and battled adversity throughout the day. Despite some bad luck with caution flags, Karam advanced 22 positions en route to his successful finish.
Country singer Reba McEntire expressed her happiness for the rookie driver:
@SageKaram go Sage!!!!— Reba McEntire (@reba) May 25, 2014
After participating in the biggest racing experience of his life, Karam told Tony DiZinno of NBC Sports about his perception of the car and his desire for more:
I knew qualifying wasn’t showing our true speed. I wanted to come to the front so badly. I came up to about eighth or ninth, then I caught the yellow at worst spot. Went a lap down and had to do it all over again. We ran out of time. But the car was on fire. It was awesome. I’m so blessed and honored. I hope this isn’t my last IndyCar race this year.
Karam took to Twitter to share his overall thoughts on his performance:
Well p9 in my first ever 500. Pretty satisfied with that!!!— Sage Karam (@SageKaram) May 25, 2014
For the sake of the fans who loved his racing style, positive attitude and maturity, Karam should be offered a long-term ride with one of the many teams in the sport. If he can run ninth in his first race, imagine the damage he could do with more practice under his belt.
When asked about how Karam handled the build to the race and the drama that surrounds it, car owner Dennis Reinbold spoke glowingly to DiZinno about the prospect:
He was great to work with from Day 1. I’ve never seen a 19-year-old with his maturity level. He got faster and faster every lap, and yet he was so calm … I don’t think his heart rate got above a resting pulse. Outside, he’s a fun-loving 19-year-old, but he gets behind the wheel and starts doing big things.
Karam’s style borderlines on cocky, forcing the action in the corners to two-wide, but he proved that he could back up his talk with excellent driving. His fearless approach will eventually get him in trouble, but his raw talent should have teams salivating over the rookie.
Should Sage Karam get a full-time ride in IndyCar?
The hope is that Karam will use the confidence and experience gained in the Indy 500 to continue building to become a better driver. With the right team supporting him, there is no doubt he could blossom into a top star in IndyCar.
Now it’s up to one of the top teams to see the talent and take the educated risk.
*Stats via IndyCar.com.