I recently got the opportunity to interview Sage Karam, who drives the number 5 Comfort Revolution car in Indy Lights for Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports. If you haven’t been able to watch Indy Lights this season (or don’t watch it all – not everyone watches the IndyCar series and/or Mazda Road to Indy series), he earned podiums in the Streets of St. Petersburg, the Long Beach 100, the Firestone Freedom 100, and Pocono, and won the Milwaukee Mile and the Sukup 100 in Iowa. With all this success, he is in second place in the championship race, eight points behind leader Carlos Munoz.
Isabelle Beecy: You've won twice this season in Indy Lights. How are you feeling about the rest of the season?
Sage Karam: The wins certainly gave me the confidence I needed. I look at the remainder of the season as a four race season and I am spotting the leader 8 points. Basically, what happened up to now doesn't mean anything, it only matters what's ahead of me.
IB: Which Izod IndyCar team would you most like to drive for?
SK: Seriously, I haven't put much thought into next year because I am so obsessed with the task at hand with Lights. Winning this title answers a lot of questions about next year and would all but guarantee me a seat in the IndyCar series and keeps me in America. Sam has been awesome to me and his personality works for me. He would be the first guy who gets a call about next year if we win the scholarship of course. His team has taken my driving to the next level and they focus on the correct things. Sam has a sincere appreciation for what Comfort Revolution and my other sponsors do for me and the team. Obviously I want to be with a team that puts me in a position to win races. I have won races in every series that I have competed in as a rookie. I don't want to sound arrogant at all, but winning in IndyCar as a rookie is certainly a goal. I think being with a team such as SPM that respects and appreciates my primary sponsor, Comfort Revolution, is essential. Comfort Revolution has placed me in this position and it is important that I am able to maximize their investment in me for them. My only concern with SPM is that they have two talented young drivers in their IndyCar program already. Hopefully Sam has another Indycar hidden in the shop somewhere haha.
IB: Given the opportunity, would you do the 24 Hours of Le Mans?
SK: I am a racer and racing is all I know. I race anything. Whether it is the person going up the escalator next to me in the airport, or the race car driver going into turn one, I want to be the first one there. So, a chance to compete in Le Mans would be a dream come true.
IB: When you're leaving the garage area and driving your car off pit road, what's on your mind? Is it on getting that best lap possible or are you focused on winning?
SK: When I roll out onto the track, especially for qualifying or a race, I enter this state of concentration that is so intense, so focused, that it is difficult to describe. I am totally engulfed in the car and the track. Everything becomes one and there is nothing else that matters. In a wrestling match I hear the coach and the crowd, but racing takes me to a level of concentration that can't be described. My life depends on this total focus.
IB: Let's say it's a race where your car could go either way in terms of a strong finish or on the verge of major understeering. Are you intent on going for the win?
SK: I use to think that if I didn't win, I failed. Now I realize that taking a 4th place car and finishing 3rd or 2nd isn't that bad. The team knows when the car isn't perfect, and they respect you for bringing it home or getting them a podium. But when the car is right, I better win.
IB: Who would you say has taught you a great deal about racing as a driver?
SK: I have always been surrounded by professional drivers and getting advice was never a problem. But many times I found that I could ask three drivers about a problem, and I would get three different answers. So I learned to figure things out on my own a lot. Most of the time the answers are in the data and the engineers are able to work it through with me. I could never afford the luxury of a driving coach, those guys are expensive. Bryan Herta actually gave me the best advice. He told me to drive the car on my instincts and don't get too caught up on what driving instructors tell me to do. I was like 13 years -old when he told me that and I still remember it. But two guys actually had large impacts on me; Bruce MacInnis was the guy who taught me to drive when I was 13 year's old at Skip Barber. I still remember a lot of the lessons he taught me. Bob Ziegel was my assigned driving coach at Skip barber for Nationals and he was very influential on me as well.
IB: Let's take a look at your iPod or music player - what tracks are you listening to these days?
SK: I enjoy modern hip hop/rap and techno. I have some country. I guess a pretty large variety