Sage Karam

A check for $270,305 is a hearty high school graduation present for Sage Karam. The opportunity to earn the prize money, though, was the ultimate gift for the 19-year-old resident of Nazareth, Pa.

“I don’t think any other 19-year-old had as much fun as I did,” said Karam, who competed in his first Indianapolis 500 Mile Race in the No. 22 entry for Dreyer & Reinbold Kingdom Racing.

Karam, who qualified 31st, advanced the most positions in the 200-lap race on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, finishing ninth. Only Kurt Busch was a higher finishing rookie.

“I knew that starting position wasn’t the true showing of our car. We had been fast all month. I had confidence in the car and they gave me a great car," said Karam, the 2013 Indy Lights champion. "The red flag came out (on Lap 192 of 200) and I was in 13th and I wanted to be in the top-10 so bad. I would do whatever it took to get there. I had an awesome restart – my best restart of the day. I picked off a few guys on that restart and I got up to ninth and brought the car home in one piece.

"The team did awesome. I am so grateful and blessed to have just run in the Indy 500."

Chip Ganassi and team manager Mike Hull kept tabs on Karam in Indy Lights and invited him to compete in one of their cars in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring. He signed a development contract with Chip Ganassi Racing Teams, and the team forged a cooperative agreement with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing principal Dennis Reinbold and Davey Hamilton, who represented Kingdom Racing.

Race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay started 19th in the No. 28 DHL car for Andretti Autosport, while others who recorded double-digit positions gained included Jacques Villeneuve (27th to 14th), Sebastien Bourdais (17th to seventh), Alex Tagliani (24th to 13th), Sebastian Saavedra (32nd to 15th), James Davison (28th to 16th) and Ryan Briscoe (30th to 18th).