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December 13, 2013 News
Champion Interview: Indy Lights - Sage Karam

Sage Karam secured the Indy Lights championship with three wins and nine podium finishes (Photo: INDYCAR)
Sage Karam secured the Indy Lights championship with three wins and nine podium finishes
(Photo: INDYCAR)

Sage Karam further established himself as a rising star in motorsports in 2013, with a championship-winning rookie campaign in Firestone Indy Lights. The Pennsylvania racer made the most of his new partnership with Schimdt Peterson Motorsports, ultimately winning races, the title, and a scholarship to move up to IndyCar in 2014. The eFormulaCarNews.com editorial staff recently spoke with Karam about the title-winning season, and what the future holds.

EFORMULACARNEWS.COM: Letís start things off by looking back at the year you had. Being as you entered the season as a rookie in the Firestone Indy Lights series, what were your goals before the first green flag waved? Did you feel any pressure to win races and challenge for the title, given you were driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, the most successful team in series history?

SAGE KARAM: Entering the 2013 season my goal was just to get the contract finalized, it was that close. I didn't have any real testing going into St. Pete, but the expectations is always to win. I never shoot for anything less.

EFCN: In the end, you won both the series title and the Rookie of the Year award by winning three races, finishing on the podium nine times, capturing three pole positions, and setting the fastest race lap twice. What do you think was the key to this success?

KARAM: I think anybody close to my program will agree that my level of confidence, combined with my competitive attitude was a key factor. Winning the pole at Indy for the Freedom 100 was a huge confidence builder, especially after out qualifying Munoz, who put it on the front-row for the Indy 500. I would also like to think that I brought a level of charisma to the No. 8 car team that motivated everybody. I know the crew on the No. 8 car was excited to wrench for an American, and it brought a higher degree of pride to the team of my car. I know that for some of the guys on my car specifically, it was the first championship for them, and that is pretty satisfying. I guess it's neat that I was the youngest in the Lights series, and also the series' youngest champion. I was even younger than the USF2000 and Pro Mazda champions this year.

EFCN: As we all know, winning a title takes a lot of hard work. Does one race or battle standout in your mind? Who was you biggest adversary?

KARAM: Well Carlos [Munoz} was the most experienced, and served as a worthy competitor. Beating Jack [Hawksworth] on equal equipment was rewarding too. Not to negate Jack's championship at all, but I always felt the Pelfrey Pro Mazda program had a big advantage in 2012 over us. Gabby [Chavez] was consistent. I knew as long as I challenged myself and kept pushing, that we would win it all.

When Sam [Schmidt] and Michael [Fux] 'pulled the gloves off' of me in Baltimore, and told me to race hard and not worry about crash damage, I think that was a major turning point in the title hunt. Passing Munoz and Chavez in the hairpin during that weekend was the magic moment that defined the championship.

EFCN: Being as the Firestone Indy Lights series is a development/feeder type championship, what do you think you learned this season that will make you a better driver, and will help you prepare for your next racing challenge?

KARAM: I learned that counting points halfway into the season is no way to win a title. In fact, its a quick way of taking yourself out of title contention.

EFCN: For drivers looking at racing in the Indy Lights series next year, what would you say are the benefits of the series, and how would you recommend they prepare for the upcoming season, so they can make the most of the opportunity?

KARAM: The progression between steps of the Mazda Road to Indy has been challenging, but manageable. I never felt I was in over my head. Too many drivers focus on small details like getting a new seat, or other things that don't really mean all that much. Focusing on footwork and driving technique are paramount in Indy Lights.

EFCN: Before we look at the future, tell us what it means to you to win the 2013 Indy Lights title?

KARAM: Hopefully it means a lot, but I am growing somewhat concerned. We have had contact to some degree from just about every IndyCar team but one, so I know that I am on the radar at least. It's a solid sign to see more and more of Europe's top talent coming over to compete in the Road to Indy program. I think they see the value and the competitiveness of it. I am not looking to buy my ride into racing, I think I bring much more than that to the table. I am looking to make a living from racing.

EFCN: Thanks to the Mazda Road to Indy program, you will have the opportunity to compete in the 2014 IZOD IndyCar Series. That being the case, how are things looking thus far?

KARAM: I have heard it said that the mazda Road to Indy program is the only ladder program that guarantees you will race at the next level if you win. Well, we will be testing that motto this year I think. I did everything I was supposed to do, so we will see how it pans out. I know a lot of people are watching how it unfolds for me. I hear of guys buying tests, and I get that, but it's kind of frustrating to see them in a car knowing I beat them. I want to connect with a team for the long term, not just any team, but a team that puts me in a position to win races. I want to be associated with a team that does it correctly.

EFCN: How has your off-season gone to date? Have you had the opportunity to test any cars? Will you get the chance to drive an IndyCar as off-season testing picks up in the new year?

KARAM: I have not been testing. If possible, my management team wants to test me with the team I am racing for, which makes sense. I want to be groomed by the team I am racing for, and learn their system of operating. I have had the luxury of being exposed to a couple of professional teams, and have observed the similarities and differences of their business models. It was a positive experience to change teams and experience the benefits of Andretti Autosport and Schmidt petterson Motorsports. I don't think any driver should come through the ladder with the same team the entire time.

EFCN: Being as you will be racing as a Mazda Road to Indy scholarship driver in 2014, what are your goals?

KARAM: I want to win races. If winning is no longer the objective, why race? Of course growing with a team and my sponsor, Comfort Revolution, is certainly a priority. I hope Mazda will expand on their scholarship and utilize me in sports cars as well. I'd love to do the Daytona 24.


When did you start racing? Karts at the age of four, and cars when I was 13.
How would you describe your driving style? Confident and savvy, with a splash of exciting.
Favorite track? The Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Favorite driver? Retired: Mario Andretti. Current: Lewis Hamilton
Favorite non-racing website? Fantasy football sites
Favorite movie? Rush
Favorite music group? 50 Cent
Favorite food? PF Changs lettuce wraps, Shula's Cowboy steak, or eating a pasta dish at the Cheesecake Factory.
If you werenít racing cars what would you be doing? Never thought about it, racing is all I ever thought about.
Current road car? 2012 Subaru WRX STi Stage 2 Cobb tuned.
Dream road car? I really like the BMW M4. Of course a McLaren, Porsche or Ferrari would get it done for me too!

Learn more about Sage Karam at http://www.SageKaram.com

Past Champion Interviews can be found HERE
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