The coronavirus outbreak is keeping Sage Karam out of a real-world IndyCar. But the veteran driver is still finding a way to terrorize fellow racers: on the virtual track.
Karam led all but four laps en route to a dominating performance Wednesday night in the Ascher Racing Grand Prix at The Glen, round two of the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment season.
“It’s all good, this is pretty awesome that we’re one of the only sports who can bring action to the fans like this right now,” Karam said about not being able to compete in his real IndyCar. “Obviously I was pretty bummed not to get to run St. Petersburg, and I used one of my Lionheart drops missing the race that week.”
Karam earned his first pole of the year in the Lionheart Racing Series powered by HyperX, and only surrendered the lead during the second pit cycle when he chose to pit early while defending series champion Adam Blocker stayed out.
“I kind of messed up there, I saved a little in the middle run and short filled it for some reason,” Karam said. “I was going to be right on while saving fuel, and that’s why Joshua (Chin) started closing in, he was using his push-to-pass and I couldn’t…it’s definitely a tough track, it can bite you pretty fast.”
Chin, a teammate of Karam’s at SKM, finished second and made a late-race push to close within two seconds of his teammate. But Chin never was close enough to mount a real attack.
“I can’t really complain about being in second, Sage had the field covered,” Chin said. “I was hoping to come out of here with the points lead, but being second in points and second in the race is a good night.”
Blocker also pushed hard to force Chin into a mistake, finishing under a second behind the series rookie in third.
“The setup had a lot of understeer in dirty air,” Blocker said. “I knew once I got behind those guys I was going to need them to make a mistake or something. But it just didn’t work.”
Several top series contenders encountered problems, including Dustin Wardlow, whose race ended on lap 23 when Damon Martinez spun in the bus stop and Wardlow careened off the guardrail while avoiding.
Bryan Carey started sixth but retired after just eight laps after a crash, while Jason Galvin was penalized for running over Marc Cohn on the opening lap after the field checked up in the bus stop. Two laps later, Galvin suffered a mechanical failure, relegating him to a 38th place finish.
Nathan Lewis started second but also lost control of his car early. Lewis avoided serious damage and was able to rebound to 10th, but was plenty disappointed thinking about what might have been.
Connor Harrington and Michael Goodman ran clean races to round out the top-five. Harrington holds a 9 point advantage over Chin in the season standings after two rounds.
The Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment returns to the ovals, and the second of three-consecutive races early in the season, Wednesday night.
The Thumbs Up, Cancer Down 200 at Phoenix Raceway can be seen live on April 1 at 10:35 p.m. EST on the iRacing eSports Network, with presentation from Global SimRacing Channel.