“We’re here,” was Sage Karam’s fleeting thought as the No. 22 Dreyer & Reinbold Kingdom Racing car sped over the Yard of Bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
An hour later, after completing the first of three Rookie Orientation Program phases, his follow-up thought was “Now we have to capitalize on it.”
The 19-year-old from Nazareth, Pa., who earned the 2013 Indy Lights championship, joined four other Verizon IndyCar Series drivers on the 2.5-mile oval for the formal Indianapolis 500 Mile Race test program that puts an emphasis on consistent car control at three speed levels. Karam systematically pushed through two of the three phases in Chevrolet-powered car, which will have Big Machine Label Group's country music entertainer Brantley Gilbert and Comfort Revolution as the co-primary sponsors. He'll complete Phase 3 on May 11 -- the opening day of practice.
Click it: Watch the news conference with Brantley Gilbert and Sage Karam
“At first (race engineer) Jeff Britton told me I was going to do an install lap (in the morning) and when I came in I said to (team owner) Dennis (Reinbold), ‘Come on, that’s the biggest tease you could ever give a new driver,’ so he let me go through Phase 1,” Karam said. “It was a dream come true. I remember coming to the race for the first time with my dad when I was 9 or 10 years old, just walking through the tunnel and thinking that I want to win this race one day.
“Now that that’s a reality and we have the opportunity to qualify it’s an amazing feeling.”
Karam won three races last season on the way to becoming the eighth rookie to win the Indy Lights title and the youngest. At age 15, he won the USF2000 Championship as well as the Rookie of the Year award. He entered Star Mazda in 2011, winning Rookie of the Year and then going on to finish third in the standings in 2012. He’s the first driver to compete in all levels of the Mazda Road to Indy program.
“It’s a really cool feeling to be the first driver to come through the Mazda Road to Indy program,” said Karam, who will miss his senior prom at Nazareth Area High School for the opportunity to qualify for the 500 Mile Race. “It really shows how the program really works and I’m really looking forward to competing in the Indianapolis 500.
“Crossing the bricks, it’s almost like an exclamation point on how I got here. I remember racing in Fontana last year on my last lap to claim the Indy Lights title I had flashbacks to everything that it took to get there and the sacrifices, the good times and bad times with me and my Dad traveling across the country in a 1990 silver pickup truck.
“It shows that the average American can really make his dream come true.”
Karam last week agreed to a multi-year development deal with Chip Ganassi Racing Teams, which has had an association with Big Machine Records since 2012, and Karam has had an association with Comfort Revolution CEO Michael Fux for six-plus years. Chip Ganassi Racing Teams, which fields four full-season cars in the Verizon IndyCar Series, has an alliance with Dryer & Reinbold Kingdom Racing for the '500.'
"It is not often that you get to work with someone like Brantley Gilbert, who is not only a race fan but also has plenty of fans in racing,” Chip Ganassi Racing Teams President Steve Lauletta said. “It is nice to have the ability to be able to do something big across multiple forms of racing all at one time. We are also thrilled to be able to deepen our relationships with Big Machine Records and Comfort Revolution. They have been great partners of the team for some time now. There is nothing that pleases us more than when partners continue to see enough value in working with us that they want to reinvest in the program.”
Turbine power to be featured at IMS
Turbine power is returning to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a special exhibit at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum that opens May 8.
The exhibit showcases the memorable times of turbine power at the world's most famous race course. Eleven cars will be on display, dating to the first turbine appearance at IMS in 1955.
INDYCAR officials have fined Andretti-HVM $2,000 for actions during the April 27 Verizon IndyCar Series race at Barber Motorsports Park.
Andretti-HVM, which fields the No. 34 Verizon IndyCar Series entry driven by Carlos Munoz, was found to have violated Rule 126.96.36.199 (Pit personnel not wearing proper attire) and Rule 188.8.131.52 (More than six crew members over the wall) of the Verizon IndyCar Series rulebook.
The member may contest the imposition of the penalty pursuant to the procedures and timelines detailed in the review and appeal procedures of the Verizon IndyCar Series rulebook.
The No. 25 Andretti Autosport entry of Marco Andretti will have Indy Trading Post as an associate sponsor for the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis 500. ... Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., president of Purdue University and the former Governor of Indiana, has joined the Hulman & Company Board of Directors. ... Davey Hamilton, Robby Unser, Pete Halsmer and Rocky Moran have joined the June 8 Sportscar Vintage Racing Association's "Indy Legends Pro-Am" race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.