Sage Karam made another strong case for getting a full-time ride.
The 19-year-old Karam more than held his own in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, turning the fastest lap in the No. 01 Ford fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing. The 2013 Indy Lights champion was driving his second straight Rolex 24 for Ganassi, and this one went considerably smoother than his rookie run.
Karam drove nearly seven hours in the car, running two, mostly problem-free runs.
"I think it says a lot about the team and their confidence in me," he said Sunday after just two hours of sleep. "They put a lot of confidence in me and gave me a lot of the workload for this race, and to know that things were going well and I was going a good job with it, I think that's the main thing."
Karam did have a major issue late, one that ultimately cost the team a chance at the victory. The clutch started to slip and eventually broke, preventing co-driver Scott Pruett from getting a record-setting sixth Rolex 24 title.
"At first, I just thought it was wheel spin on cold tires," Karam said. "But after that, I was like, 'No, there's no way this is cold tires anymore.' … I was like, 'That's gotta be the clutch.'
"So I bring it on in and I was like, 'Yeah guys, the clutch is slipping.' Surely that was it. We tried to do different maps and stuff to help it out, boost maps, but ultimately I just couldn't hang with anybody and I was just too slow, so we just had to bring it in and diagnose it."
Nonetheless, the race proved to be another solid showing for Karam. The Nazareth, Pennsylvania, native started 31st (out of 33 cars) in the 2014 Indy 500 and finished ninth — the biggest mover of the day.
Former NASCAR champion Kurt Busch finished sixth and earned Indy rookie of the year honors, but many believe Karam would have been a better choice.
Between his Indy Lights title, his Indy 500 debut and his Rolex 24 run, there's mounting evidence that Karam would do well in a full-time ride — assuming he gets the chance.
"I know everyone wants it to happen," he said. "I think it's just the extra little bit of funding just to get the seat at the level we need it at to start the season. I know Chip is really pushing for it, my main sponsors are really pushing for it and pretty much all of the main guys at Chip Ganassi Racing are really pushing for it.
"Everything's been positive, so I think it's going to happen. We just need that last little push with funding." Indy Star