It was déjà vu for Sage Karam.
This time, the Pennsylvania native got the job done in the ButtKicker Indy 250.
In a finish reminiscent of the Indy Lights Freedom 100 in 2013, Karam rolled through turn four at the fabled Indianapolis Motor Speedway behind the leader, before popping to the inside and hoping for the run that eluded him seven years ago.
“That was really fun,” Karam said after the race. “It reminded me of the Freedom 100. You try to position yourself for the last lap but in the back of your mind, you know if a yellow comes out it could be over. I just wanted to not be in the lead going into the final corner...I wanted to keep at least one car in front of me, and I got a run and it just worked out. It went to plan, and it usually doesn’t go that way.
It definitely reminded me of the Freedom 100. I was in the same position. Unfortunately that didn’t really work out in real life, but it was nice to get some redemption here.”
Karam crossed the stripe 0.026 seconds ahead of Ryan Otis. Mike Rasimas and Trevor Malone, who hit the pit wall in the scramble to the finish, flanked the championship contenders.
Dustin Wardlow, who won the inaugural event in 2017, came from 27th to finish fifth, with David Clymer in sixth. The margin from first to sixth: 0.080 seconds.
“The racing was so clean, it was awesome,” Karam said. “When you can race like that, so close with guys you really trust, it’s awesome. It reminded me of my karting days. It was just a great race. It’s good when you know who you’re racing.”
Otis was thrilled with second, and knew he was a sitting target heading into the final set of turns.
“I did a few practice races, and in both of them, there was a photo finish,” Otis said. “In both races, the car on the outside had the better run and won it. So I thought I would be good. But when Sage got the run, he just had a huge run and beat me.”
Rasimas completed the podium for the second time in as many events, an impressive start for the series newcomer.
“I’m still kinda shaking a little from that finish,” Rasimas said. “I just didn’t want to wreck anybody. I knew when I was kinda up there alone in the last corner that it was probably over. But it was fun.”
Karam and Otis dominated the event, leading a combined 72 of 100 laps, but the race still featured plenty of action.
59 lead changes occurred despite 12 caution laps, including a massive crash on lap 80 at the front of the field.
Marc Cohn and George Sandman were leading the field with Indy 500 veteran Adrian Fernandez in third. The Mexican star made an aggressive move to the middle, but ran out of room and turned Cohn into Sandman.
Over a dozen cars careened left and right off the walls, allowing Otis and Karam to move back to the head of the field, setting up the frantic run to the finish.
Just 13 of the 36 starters finished the event, many undone by the turn two wall, which seemed to jump out and bite cars at a frequent rate.
Otis is still the points leader, but Karam has closed the gap to just nine. Sandman’s DNF caused him to slide to 92 points back of Otis, with Dustin Wardlow jumping three spots and emerging once again in the championship battle in fourth.
The Lionheart Retro Series presented by DMLC Racing Channel drivers take a month off to catch their breath before heading to wine country, and the rolling hills of Sonoma Raceway for the HyperX Grand Prix of Sonoma. The race can be seen live on the iRacing eSports Network, with Global SimRacing Channel producing the action, at 10:35 p.m. EST on Thursday, July 30.