IMSA Brickyard notebook for Thursday

It’s hard to think of the ninth Indianapolis 500 veteran added to this week’s Brickyard Grand Prix field as any kind of “veteran." At 19 years old, Sage Karam hardly qualifies as an old-timer, but the youngster was calm and composed on his way to a ninth-place finish on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval two months ago. Had it not been for another “rookie" (again, a misleading term) named Kurt Busch, Karam would have been the hands-down choice for Indy 500 rookie of the year.

Karam was tabbed earlier this week to replace Memo Rojas alongside Scott Pruett in the No. 01 Telcel Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Ford EcoBoost/Riley Prototype, as Rojas deals with back issues. Karam called it a “no-brainer" when he was asked to fill in by the team, which has signed Karam to a driver development deal. Karam made his TUDOR United SportsCar Championship debut with the team in January in the Rolex 24 At Daytona prior to his memorable Indy 500 drive.

“I drove the oval all month of May," Karam said about his return to IMS. “I drove Indy Lights here on the oval and I drove Lights around the old road course, but the old road course and the new road course are night-and-day difference. I have to learn this new track and I’m still learning the sports car; I don’t really have a bunch of time in it. It’s like a double whammy learning two for one there.

“I’m used to the IndyCar around here, going the other way and being so smooth and as consistent as you can," Karam continued. “Whereas now you’re all over the place, passing cars left and right. That’s the fun thing about sports cars, you’ve got slower cars and guys in your class, and you’re always having to be on your ‘A’ game. I love racing this car, I really do."


It was a narrow margin, but Matt Bell put the No. 9 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro Z/28.R on the pole for Friday’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race in this afternoon’s qualifying session. Bell logged a lap of 1 minute, 34.821 seconds around the 2.435-mile circuit to edge out John Edwards in the series-leading No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 by just 0.017 of a second in the GS class.

“Team Chevy has delivered an awesome car, Brad Miller has built that into a really good race car and Stevenson has tweaked this car to be absolutely perfect here," said Bell, who will team with Andy Lally in the race. “We were hunting for some rear grip in the practice sessions. When we came out here (for qualifying), we had so much rear grip that I actually had understeer. That second lap was just perfect; back tires were starting to fall off, front tires were staying right where they were and it was kind of just that golden opportunity. I think we’re in a good place and I think the car’s going to be perfect again tomorrow."

Adam Isman was fastest in the ST class, with a lap of 1:39.318 in the No. 04 Autometrics Motorsports Porsche Cayman he co-drives with Remo Ruscitti. The teams of Bell/Lally and Isman/Ruscitti won their classes in the most recent Continental Tire Championship race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park near Toronto.