MOTEGI, Japan (April 18, 2020) – Sage Karam put in a tremendous comeback drive Saturday in the Firestone 175 iRacing virtual event at Japan’s Twin Ring Motegi when the Nazareth, Pa., driver came from a 31st starting position to finish seventh at the checkered flag. 

Karam’s performance recorded the most passes of the event, moving up 24 spots. In addition, Sage recorded the fastest race lap at 200.007 miles per hour (27.359 seconds) on lap 86.

Karam, the race winner of the inaugural INDYCAR Challenge contest at the Watkins Glen International road circuit, made a comeback run Saturday, similar to his “rookie” performance in the 2014 Indianapolis 500 when he started 31st and placed ninth. Sage won the “Hard Charger Award” in that race.

On Saturday, Sage looked strong in practice runs in the No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing WIX Filters Chevrolet machine and Sage was ready for a pole position run in qualifying. However, Sage clipped the wall in time trials and cost the 25-year-old racer his timed lap. He was forced to start in the last row of the 32-driver field. 

At the start of the 113-lap race at the fast 1.549-mile oval track north of Tokyo, Karam paced his drive with consistent laps and picked off cars one at a time. By lap 10, Sage had moved to 20th and settled in for more consistent laps with his car producing faster laps. 

Karam continued his pursuit towards the front with the 15th spot by lap 42 as other drivers began their routine pit stops. On lap 51, Sage held the lead, the fourth event he has led in the first four INDYCAR Challenge races. Karam led five laps Saturday.

After a quick pit stop on lap 56, Karam pick off two additional positions and he held the 12th position on lap 70.  Karam’s car was working well and broke into the top-ten by lap 79. After another pit stop on lap 84, Karam fought his way from 13th to seventh at the finish. 

Karam’s view of a spinning Helio Castroneves (Photo Courtesy of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing)

“I messed up my qualifying run today,” said Karam. “I think we were quick enough in practice for the front row or even the pole. But it wasn’t meant to be, and we had to start at the back. Coming from 31st to seventh is a good run. Reminds me of my first Indy 500 in 2014. I came for 31st to ninth and got ‘Hard Charger’ of the race back then. 

“It was a weird day. We tried an early pit stop and then got up to the front about lap 50 or so. We had a few issues in the race too, but, overall, it was a good finish. We had a good car in the middle of the race. I’m pretty drained right now fighting through the field. I’ll be ready for COTA next week. It should be fun.”

Two INDYCAR Challenge events remain in the iRacing virtual series with the popular Circuit of the Americas (COTA) road course scheduled for next Saturday, April 25, with a “Dream Track” set for the finale on Saturday, May 2.