Karam third at Pocono 100
Expectations were high for Sage Karam entering Saturday's Pocono 100, and for good reason.
The Nazareth Area High School senior, and son of Liberty wresting coach Jody Karam, entered the race with the points lead in the Firestone Indy Lights Series after claiming the previous two races at Milwaukee and Iowa, respectively.
The event had additional significance for Karam, one of two Americans in the field, who was racing close to home on the Fourth of July weekend.
Karam did well to qualify second behind Andretti Autosport's Carlos Munoz, the man chasing him in points entering the weekend, and put himself in position to be in contention on race day.
But as the race unfolded, Munoz pulled away and left little doubt that he was in charge, leading all 40 laps en route to a dominant win.
It was the third victory of the season for Munoz, driving the No. 26 Dialy-Ser car for Andretti Autosport, and fifth overall (second on an oval). He's led all the race laps in the victories. It also was the third victory in five starts from the pole this season for the 21-year-old Colombian.
Including bonus points for the Sunoco Pole Award and leading the most laps on the 2.5-mile tri-oval, Munoz takes a four-point lead over Karam into the race next week on the streets of Exhibition Place in Toronto.
"My team, my engineers, my mechanics, everyone did an amazing job giving me this great car," Munoz said. "I was flat out the whole way and it's really nice to be back in victory circle after our weekend in Iowa, where we finished eighth after starting on pole.
"I was really motivated to come here and race on this oval. Looking forward to continue our momentum in Toronto."
Behind Munoz, who won by over 16 seconds, Karam battled teammate Gabby Chaves for second in the final 10 laps of the caution-free race. They traded second position four times, with Karam overtaking Chaves' car in Turn 1 on Lap 39. Chaves crossed the finish line seven tenths of a second behind Karam.
The disappointment was obvious for Karam, who wanted to deliver a win in front of his family and friends.
"Yeah, I was excited for this race knowing it was my hometown crowd," Karam said, "I just had a lot of people here and wanted to bring home a big win for them and just did what I could.
"Carlos (Munoz) was really fast and I could not keep up with him. I was flat out the whole race, didn't lift once, just had nothing for him.
The battle with his teammate got dicey near the end of the race. But Karam knew Chaves would race him clean.
"I had a good battle there with Gaby (Chaves) at the end," Karam said of the duel. "It was really fun, because we've raced each other since we were in go-karts at ten years-old. So we know each other like the back of our hands and we know we were going to race each other with respect and clean.
"But we actually had some contact there a little bit and I think I damaged his front wing, which got my left rear tire. But it was pretty cool the last ten laps."
With Munoz taking such a commanding win, Karam did what he could to minimize his losses and keep himself in the hunt for the championship as the season rolls along.
"You know, we just had to do what we could, and if we couldn't beat him, the next best thing was to finish right behind him and that's what we had to settle for," Karam said.