INDIANAPOLIS — It didn’t have to be this hard. Sage Karam is unfortunately becoming a seasoned veteran with the dreaded Bump Day intrigue. The 25 year old Pennsylvania native notes that by time he gets to 30, he’s going to be gray because of these long qualifying weekends at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The thing is though, with being a mainstay in the Last Row Shootout gives him something most others don’t have — an advantage. See, this isn’t his first rodeo in this. In 2019, he joined the Shootout and was quickest time in the session at 227.740 mph. Then, everyone got one attempt. He made his count.
Last year, there wasn’t any bumping since we had 33 cars for 33 spots, but Karam yet again qualified his No. 24 Chevrolet in 31st. Here he is again, back in the Shootout, the wrong one that you want to be in. He’s not in the Fast Nine Shootout which would occur later on in the day. He’s in the one that takes years off of your life.
He’s one of five drying vying for three spots. He’s back. This time, he’s doing so with a single car team. He doesn’t have the veteran leadership of JR Hildebrand to bounce ideas off of. This is all on his shoulders.
Karam, also has Indiana sponsors. You don’t want to be among the two cars to not make the field with such deep Indiana ties. From sponsors to his car owner, the only thing not Indiana on this team is the driver.
Remember, Karam is only 25. He’s not a full time driver. He’s getting married soon. His team lost their long time Indy sponsor at the end of last year, so Karam didn’t even think he’d be here in May when that occurred. He was starting to look for other jobs because he knew that he wasn’t going to be supporting himself anymore. He had a fiancee to provide for.
Then, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing found a mulligan with new sponsors, but it was only enough for one car. The yearly outlook for Karam now is squarely on his 25 year old shoulders. Only he could drive this car and only he could turn four laps at speeds close to 230 mph.
So he did. Karam, went quickest out of anyone on Sunday and put his way into the field of 33 for the eighth time. Ironically enough, this is the fourth time he’s started on the Inside of Row 11. He’s been here so many times, he’s accumulating the coins for the Last Row Party.
But, he said it didn’t have to be this way. He’s not ever missed this race as he’s always delivered in the most pressure packed situations here, but he’s ready to start making the show without drama again.
Now that he’s in the race though, Karam knows he has a good shot. He was fourth in practice on Tuesday. Ninth on Wednesday. He had good balance in practice on Sunday evening. If anyone can come from the back, it’s him. He did so as a teenager in 2014. He started 31st in his first INDYCAR start of his life. He missed his high school prom to be here that year. He finished ninth.
Pressure is off now. Karam is back in the Indy 500.