Sage Karam wanted to treat his team to some pizzas to say thanks for their work in his dazzling debut at the Indianapolis 500.
Karam didn’t need his money once the delivery man arrived with three large pizzas and recognized the teen sensation who rebounded from a 31st-place starting spot to finish ninth in his first IndyCar Series start on the sport’s grandest stage. The pizza was on the house.
“Stuff like that is pretty cool,” Karam said.
It’s waiting around for another shot in an Indy car that’s the bummer.
Karam is waiting for more races and a chance to prove his rookie run was no one-hit wonder, just the birth of what could be a successful open-wheel career.
Karam at least knows when he’ll get behind the wheel again for his next race. Karam was added Thursday to the Tudor United SportsCar Championship driver lineup for the June 29 Six Hours of the Glen. He will join Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas in the No. 01 car driving for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Karam also drove for Ganassi at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring.
“He has done nothing but impress all of us whenever he gets behind the wheel of a car, any car,” Ganassi said. “Whether it is in these prototypes or an Indy car, he has been equally impressive. It is not often when you have someone so young driving with such maturity and calm when he is behind the wheel.”
The recent Pennsylvania high school graduate and reigning Indy Lights champion has found his weekends free for racing karts at local tracks this season instead of hitting the grid for his next race. His spot as a developmental driver for Ganassi hasn’t led to a fulltime ride, and his Indy 500 spot came as a joint entry fielded by Ganassi Racing and Dreyer & Reinbold Kingdom Racing.
He made a splash in May, stealing headlines when he attended a makeshift prom with his girlfriend, Anna de Ferran, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Karam was runner-up to Scott Dixon in the pit crew competition and became an instant fan favorite and media darling with his carefree persona.
But it was his ninth-place finish that really opened some eyes. Karam, who could have applied a $1 million Indy Light championship stipend to a full-time ride in 2014, just wishes his finish would lead to more opportunities.
“It kind of hurts a little bit just because we did everything we were asked to do last year,” Karam said. “We won the championship, we got the scholarship money. It all still just comes down to some money issues. There are some drivers who can bring $5 million to a team and run full season but have never run in the States ever before. That’s been my goal ever since I was a little kid, and I did everything I had to do and we’re still struggling.”
Karam missed a chance to earn a few more bucks when he lost out on Indy 500 rookie of the year honors to Kurt Busch. The NASCAR champion attempted The Double – racing 1,110 miles at Indy and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day – and finished a robust sixth. It was enough for the veteran to earn the award ahead of the 19-year-old driver.
“That one hurt a little bit,” Busch said. “Kurt finished ahead of me and outqualified me. But it’s hard to look at Kurt as a rookie. Look at what he’s done in his career. He’s had an outstanding career. But I passed so many cars in that race and had to do it twice. I was really wanting rookie of the year.”
Karam graduated from Nazareth Area High School this month but didn’t apply to college. While his classmates decorated the top of their caps with logos and mascots from their colleges, Karam colored his with the IMS logo, the No. 22 and the SK$ symbol. When it was time to accept his diploma, his classmates shouted “SK Money!”
“I just threw up the giant money symbol to them,” he said. “It was a really cool thing to graduate.”
There’s little chance his friends will be at Pocono Raceway cheering him next month when IndyCar hits his home track. Time is nearly out for Karam to put together the deal needed that can land him in the July 6 race. Karam remained confident 2015 will truly be his year in IndyCar.
“If there’s one guy and one team that can really make it happen and get me in a car full time,” Karam said, “it’s Chip Ganassi.”