DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Just about everything in Sage Karam’s day engages a learning component – from competing in an endurance sports car race with Verizon IndyCar Series stars, to soaking in the engineering speak of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates’ Chris Simmons and John Hennek, to assisting his father, Jody, the wrestling coach at Liberty High School in Pennsylvania.
“To have that experience and have the resources around me that I have it’s pretty much unreal for the age I am,” the 19-year-old said. “It’s a blessing and I take it every day and do the best I can.”
Karam’s impressive racing resume includes the 2013 Indy Lights championship, a ninth-place finish in his Indianapolis 500 Mile Race debut and most recently a strong performance in his second Rolex 24 At Daytona. He’s hoping to expand the CV with a full-season Verizon IndyCar Series ride, joining Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball at Chip Ganassi Racing Teams.
“I know everyone wants it to happen,” Karam said. “I know Chip (Ganassi) is really pushing for it, my main sponsors are really pushing for it, and pretty much all of the main guys at Chip Ganassi Racing are really pushing for it. I think it’s just the extra little bit of funding just to get the seat at the level we need it at to start the season.”
Quite possibly his stints totaling almost seven hours in the No. 01 Prototype, which was in contention for the overall victory in the 53rd endurance race at Daytona International Speedway until a clutch issue sent it to the garage with two hours left, will be a selling point for the sponsorship deficit.
“I think it says a lot about the team and their confidence in me,” said Karam, who co-drove with Kimball, Joey Hand and five-time overall race winner Scott Pruett. “They gave me a lot of the workload for this race, and to know that things were going well and I was going a good job with it, I think that’s the main thing.”
It was another opportunity to learn from teammates’ tips and from experiencing the highs and disappointments of racing all rolled into a 24-hour sleepless span.
“This past year has been great (as a Ganassi Racing development driver),” he said. “It was a really good experience. I got to be involved at the shop and when I’m at the race I’m in the engineering office learning how the drivers interact with the engineers and how the engineers do their work.”
He’s also tested in a Verizon IndyCar Series car at Sebring International Raceway and NOLA Motorsports Park in the past six weeks, and is scheduled to join the team for a Feb. 10 at Sonoma Raceway.
“I had not been on road course in an open-wheel car since Houston in 2013 in Indy Lights. The pace is there with my teammates. I was surprised by that and happy,” he said. “To just jump in and be quick right off the bat was good for me. All this training is good preparation. Hopefully, we’ll keep all this positive energy and get this deal done.”