WEST ALLIS, Wis. -- There wasn't a sense of urgency for pole sitter Sage Karam after being overtaken for the lead on the first lap of the Milwaukee 100.
Conserve the tires, adjust the balance of the car, soak up every lap on the historic one-mile oval in the early going was the prescription. Then look for an opportunity to reclaim the point.
That's exactly what the 18-year-old from Nazareth, Pa., followed on the way to his first Firestone Indy Lights victory. An upcoming senior in high school and a freshman in the series, Karam led championship points leader Carlos Munoz across the finish line by 1.0808 seconds in the race slowed by one lap of caution.
Karam, driving the No. 8 Schmidt Peterson with Curb-Agajanian car, had started on the pole for the second consecutive race but was passed by Zach Veach on the first lap. Veach led the initial 56 laps before Karam overtook the No. 12 K12 car for Andretti Autosport in Turn 2.
"I had to stay mentally strong and that’s what we did," Karam said. "I saved my tires pretty well in the beginning and ran him down and made a good move. I knew he couldn't go out that fast and keep his tires under him. He caught lap traffic. When he caught lap traffic, when he used the tires a little bit extra, I knew that was my turn to pounce.
"That's what we did. I had my tires underneath me. I had enough to make the move. And the traffic, we worked well with them and they worked well with us. So I have to give a big hats off to all of the lapped traffic out there for really being polite.
"The first one is always big. Star Mazda, my first win was Milwaukee also."
Munoz got past Veach's car on Lap 64 and closed to 1.1977 seconds of Karam with 10 laps remaining. The lone caution for light contact by the No. 5 Belardi Auto Racing car of Peter Dempsey in Turn 2 on Lap 95 provided an opportunity for Munoz, but Karam got a strong jump on the Lap 97 restart.
"Second place tastes like a win, more or less," said Munoz, who started fourth in the No. 26 Dialy-Ser car for Andretti Autosport. "We had a couple of problems from the car. First time this year that I don’t have a perfect car. But it is nice, second place. It is for the championship and I lead the points, but we have to go race and get some more podiums."
Veach, who qualified a season-high second, earned his first podium finish and Gabby Chaves finished fourth in the No. 7 Schmidt Peterson with Curb-Agajanian car.
“I think it was a really good weekend for us," Veach said. "I just made a little bit of a rookie mistake and pushed too hard the first couple of laps. So we learned a lot from it and I am just happy to come home with a third because the last laps I was really just hanging on and I was really hoping no one was behind us. We will keep digging.”
Karam, who is the third first-time winner this season and the fourth in five races, closed to 18 points of Munoz in the standings with the series heading to Iowa Speedway next week and then to Pocono Raceway on July 7. Chaves remained third in the standings (36 points behind).
"Hopefully we can keep going," said Karam, who has won Mazda Road to Indy races at the .875-mile Iowa Speedway the past three years.
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