17 February 2015
IndyCar: Karam to get Ganassi outing at St Pete
Chip Ganassi Racing has added development driver Sage Karam to its racer line-up for the 2015 season opener at St Petersburg next month.
Sage Karam will get his first Verizon IndyCar Series outing on a street course next month, after the Chip Ganassi Racing Team confirmed that they would field the 19-year-old in the first round of the 2015 season at St Petersburg.
Karam previously competed in the 2013 Indy Lights championship with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and picked up three wins and six further podium positions in 12 races on this way to picking up that year's title. He made his IndyCar début last year in the Indianapolis 500 with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in partnership with CGRT, and finished the race in the top ten after starting the race in 22nd place on the starting grid.
Finding a full-time race seat in the series has been more difficult, resulting in Karam working with the Ganassi squad as a development driver including an outing in the #01 Ford Eco-boost/Target Riley in the Rolex 24 at Daytona with Scott Pruett, Joey Hand and Charlie Kimball. Now Karam has neen rewarded for all his hard work with an outing in the 2015 IndyCar season opener alongside regular drivers Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Kimball.
"It's such an honour to get the opportunity to race full-time in the Verizon IndyCar Series, especially in a CGRT car," said Karam, who will be at the wheel of the #8 entry with sponsorship from GE LED lighting. In doing so, he'll become the youngest driver to race for the team, beating Dixon's record of 22 years old when he débuted for Ganassi at the Milwaukee Mile in 2002.
"The 2014 season was a great learning experience with the team as a whole and I feel prepared to get out there and be competitive,' said Karam. "This is truly one of the biggest days of my life and now I'm just ready for the season to get started."
“I am very happy to be making this announcement about Sage," said Chip Ganassi. "If there ever was a kid that deserved an opportunity in this series it is Sage. He has done everything that we have asked him to do and has turned a lot of heads whether it is driving an Indy car, sports car or simply making appearances.
"Sage is a class act and we are happy to have him run in St. Petersburg as we continue to work on the rest of the season," Ganassi added, suggesting that St Pete might not be the only appearance the young American makes for the team in 2015, although no further runs in the #8 are confirmed at this point.
"I'm always in Florida, which is cool, but to be going there to be racing is a cool thing," continued Karam. "We're looking forward to it. The whole team is working really hard. We're still trying to get the deal 100% confirmed for the whole season. To know we'll be on the grid for the first race is a positive."
Karam is hopeful of getting his second opportunity to race in the Indy 500 in May, and has great memories of his first run in the Greatest Spectacle of Motorsport last year.
"I don't think you'll ever forget your first Indy 500, I definitely do think about it," he admitted this week. "It was a really busy month for me. We had some issues in qualifying, and I had to start farther back than what I would have liked to. We definitely weren't showing the pace in qualifying that we actually had. It just made the race more fun for me. We had to go back there and you can really only go forward from there.
"I thought it was pretty cool. I was out there driving. I remember the first pass I made in practice was Villeneuve - he won the year I was born!" he said with a laugh. "That was pretty cool to be out there racing with guys like that. Then I'm out there in the race driving with like Montoya and stuff, running inches away from people like that. It was amazing.
"I wasn't as nervous as I thought I was going to be for my first Indy 500," he recalled. "I went to bed and slept straight through the night the night before. It was good. I came to the track. I was happy I actually got a police escort instead of having to wait outside for three or four hours to get in. It's got its perks."
Whether or not Karam gets his police escort again at Indy this year remains to be seen, but he'll certainly be firmly in the spotlight in Florida when it comes to the green flag for the first race of the season, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday March 29.
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