Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Karam Rising In Star Mazda Fight

If you’ve missed the action in the Star Mazda Championship this year, you’ve missed some of the most competitive, challenging racing in the entire Mazda Road To Indy ladder. Sage Karam knows that for a first-hand fact.

With five races remaining on the Star Mazda schedule, the 17 year-old driver from Nazareth, Pennsylvania has charged his way up to P2 in the Star Mazda standings, only 41 points behind frontrunner Jack Hawksworth. He’s either won or finished on the podium in six of the last seven races. A year after being the Star Mazda Rookie of the Year, the driver of the #88 Comfort Revolution/Andretti Autosport machine has injected some life into Star Mazda’s battle for the title, and the Indy Lights scholarship that accompanies it.

For Karam’s part, he believes winning that championship is possible.

“I definitely believe I have a legit shot,” stated Karam in a recent interview. “I need to keep doing what I do, and no more mechanical breakdowns. I don't wish poor results on my opponents because I believe in that whole Karma thing you know? But, I certainly could use some help from the rest of the Star Mazda field”.

With challenges remaining at Baltimore, Mazda Raceway, and Road Atlanta, Karam believes his aggressive approach on the track will serve him well as he continues to challenge Hawksworth and the rest of the field.

“I have been driving with the ‘gloves off’ approach and I don't plan on changing that,” Karam affirmed. “Senna said, ‘when you see a gap and don't take it, you are no longer a racer’; I live by that. My team is excited about our success, the momentum and my driving style. I'd like to think that my team thrives off the excitement and effort that I bring to the track, and I feed off of their dedication, too”.

There’s certainly been far more to cheer than regret for the Andretti Autosport crew this year when it comes to Karam’s on-track performance.

“One proud stat I have to share is that we have only been passed this year in racing one time, and that was the first race of the year at St. Pete. I got punted once at Barber, but that doesn't count as legitimate in my book,” Karam laughed. “Of course, my car didn't roll off the line at Toronto, but under racing, only one pass. That's the stuff that championships are made of...at least I hope”.

With five different winners and nine drivers already taking home Top 3 honors this season, Karam recognizes the brutal level of Star Mazda competition, from Jack Hawksworth on down. He deferred on stating just what made Hawksworth in particular such a strong competitor, but instead offered praise for the field as a whole.

Karam also won at Iowa earlier this year.
Used with permission. Courtesy
TracksideOnline.com
“Good question, but I will leave that one to you guys to answer!” he replied when asked on Hawksworth’s strengths as an opponent. “In all seriousness, this is a very strong Star Mazda field with a lot of depth. Jack's bad luck hasn't been as bad as my bad luck. One of the things about racing that I respect is that in order to win, you have to beat everybody that shows up, not just one opponent. Winning is a big deal--you ever watch that Juncos [Racing] team when they win? Those guys go nuts, like they won the Lotto or something. They know how to celebrate crazy! It's because winning is just so hard in this series”.

After claiming his last victory (and first Star Mazda win on a road course) in the soggy environs of Trois-Rivieres, Karam admitted he wouldn’t mind seeing a few more races take a wet turn.

“I think my karting background has been a major player in my car control and the comfortable feeling I have in the rain,” Karam asserted. “Wet racing is something that has always suited me from karting to cars, I can't explain why. So, yeah, I wouldn't mind if it rained every race, but it makes a mess of the car”.

Whether he manages to win the Star Mazda Championship or finishes elsewhere in the standings, there are some big decisions coming for precisely where Sage will spend 2013. While he’s only in his second year of Star Mazda, there’s certainly some pull to look towards the next step of the ladder in Firestone Indy Lights, as well.

“Winning the Mazda Road to Indy scholarship certainly makes the decision very easy,” supplied Karam. “Although it's a lot of money in my humble world, getting 2nd place prize money really does nothing to assist the move up to Lights. My first priority is the current Star Mazda program. Moving up to Lights next year is where my heart is, but I don't make those decisions. If staying down in Star Mazda is the plan, then that's what it is. I'd hate to think that my dream career would be over if I don't win the title this year, but I guess anything is possible and I have been taught to never take things for granted. I am surrounded by some amazing people and I feel that the important decisions are in the correct hands that have permitted me to focus on racing”.

Additionally, Karam wouldn’t mind branching out in terms of his racing résumé, but so far, the opportunities haven’t been there. He’d “really like to race some sports cars in ALMS or Grand Am”, but feels he “just doesn’t get taken seriously” because of his age.

Indeed, it’s difficult at times to remember Karam is still in high school. Off the track, he still attends school, and participates in one of his other passions, wrestling.

“Wrestling and racing work nicely together for me,” mentioned Karam when asked about his wrestling pursuits. “The mental toughness that wrestling brings to the racing circuit is a huge advantage. When things are going well in racing or wrestling, I don't think much about the other sport, but when times are tough and I have to deal with a setback, I often ask myself, how would I handle this in racing or wrestling? A lot of physical training for wrestling and racing is very similar, believe it or not. So, it's like a year-round deal for me, for fitness.

I am going into my junior year in high school and I'd like to medal in the state championships this year. But my ultimate high school dream is to compete in the Indy 500 my senior year! How cool would that be?”

While the Indianapolis 500 remains a couple of steps down the road, Sage Karam certainly has no end of racing excitement to keep him busy this season. Whether or not the young American talent wins the Star Mazda Championship’s top honors remains to be seen, but he should do his part to make it an exciting dash to the finish.

4 comments:

  1. sage is a bamf, i hope all his dreams come true

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  2. I love this kid! 2nd coming of Ayrton.

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  3. Yeah, he's a blast to watch, that's for sure!

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  4. Hoping to see him in GP3 next year but no mention in interview

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