WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (March 29, 2020) – Young Sage Karam of Nazareth, Pa., dominated the inaugural INDYCAR iRacing Challenge race, the American Red Cross Grand Prix, Saturday in the No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing WIX Filters Chevrolet machine in the virtual racing NTT INDYCAR SERIES 45-lap event at the famed Watkins Glen International 3.4-mile, 11-turn road course.
Karam, the former Indy Lights and F2000 series champion, started from the pole position in the 24-car starting field and defeated Chip Ganassi Racing driver Felix Rosenqvist of Sweden by 3.6174 seconds with an average speed of 138.200 mile per hour in capturing the first INDYCAR iRacing Challenge race in 2020.
Due to the COVID-19 virus, the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES was postponed now until June and the series competitors were forced to compete on simulators today in the virtual competition. Saturday’s event was the first of six races set in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. Next Saturday’s contest is set for Barber Motorsports Park.
Sage nipped Rosenqvist for the pole position earlier in the day with a time of one minute, 24.136 seconds with Will Power and Scott Speed placing third and fourth on the starting grid.
Karam grabbed the lead from the start and only lost the front spot due to two quick pit stops on laps 15 and 31. Karam admitted he was nervous entering today’s race as he wasn’t sure how the competition stacked up in the opening race.
“I think I was more nervous for today’s race than the Indy 500,” said Karam, a regular in the Lionheart iRacing Series. “I was pacing around the house six hours before the race. It’s so much different with no crowd and crew guys with you. It was just my girlfriend, Abby, and our two dogs, Fetty and Drake. I wasn’t sure what the rest of the field would be like in experience and speed. I had heard stories than guys stayed up all night practicing. I did a few qualifying simulation runs and one long stint this morning.”In addition, another factor that is different for the iRacing event was the weather. There were thunderstorms in the Nazareth area during the race (4 p.m. to 5:10 p.m. EDT) and Karam thought his internet connection might get knocked off.
“As the race started, I could hear thunder and the rain coming down,” ha said. “I thought, ‘Oh no, my connection could bounce off my computer in the middle of the race.’ Luckily it stayed good throughout the race. I heard some of the guys in Indy had storms too and got disconnected. You never think of that in a regular race.”
Karam has raced twice at the Watkins Glen International course during his career – in the Chip Ganassi Racing Prototype sports car and the Lexus GT3 sport car. This event was his first in an IndyCar (virtual) at the Watkins Glen circuit.
Saturday’s victory wasn’t without excitement for the 25-year-old former high school wrestling star.“Late in the race, I was trying to get through traffic and Kyle Kirkwood spun right in front of me,” he said. “I wasn’t sure where he was going, and I just dove to the left side of the track. I barely missed him. That was a little too close for comfort. I know there was a lot of wild things going on behind me throughout the race.
I had a lot of fun today. It was great that we could give the fans something to watch. It’s the only sport that can be run like this (racing) right now. I’m very happy for WIX Filters, Mecum Auto Auction and the whole Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team. The No. 24 car looked really good on the track and even better out front. I’m pretty worn out right now. Especially mentally. But very happy to win.”
Trailing Karam and Rosenqvist at the finish of one-hour, 5-minute, 50-second race was Team Penske’s Will Power and Scott McLaughlin as well as Arrow McLaren SP’s Oliver Askew.
Power set the fastest race lap at 141.689 m.p.h. followed by Karam’s 141.611.
The next INDYCAR iRacing Challenge event is scheduled for Saturday, April 4, at 4 p.m. EDT at the Barber Motorsports Park 2.38-mile, 16-turn road track in Leeds, Ala.About Dreyer & Reinbold Racing: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing was founded in 1999 by Indianapolis car dealer Dennis Reinbold. The legacy of the Dreyer and Reinbold family dates back to the 1920s with Reinbold’s grandfather, the legendary Floyd “Pop” Dreyer, a former factory motorcycle racer. Dreyer served as a crewman and mechanic on the famed Duesenberg driven by Benny Shoaff and Babe Stapp in the 1927 Indy 500. Dreyer went on to build Indy 500 cars in the 1930s which many started on the front row. In addition, Dreyer constructed championship-winning sprint cars and midgets as well as quarter midgets called Dreyerettes. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing captured its first win in 2000 with driver Robbie Buhl at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla., and has fielded a variety of drivers including Buhl, Buddy Lazier, Sarah Fisher, Buddy Rice, Ryan Briscoe, Al Unser Jr., Townsend Bell and Sage Karam. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing has successfully qualified all 40 drivers for the Indy 500 in its history. DRR, who campaigned in the Rallycross for the first time in 2015, captured the 2016 Lites championship in 2016. In 2019, DRR campaigned Karam, Hildebrand, Conner Marcell, Cole Keatts, Gray Ledbetter and Lane Vacala in the Lites division.