Sage Karam, a former champion in both the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, made a glorious virtual return to Road to Indy action this evening by sweeping the TireRack.com Road to Indy iRacing eSeries Presented by Cooper Tires All-Star Invitational. The event, held under the lights at World Wide Technology Raceway, featured two exciting 20-minute races using the Tatuus PM-18 Indy Pro 2000 car .
Karam, from Nazareth, Pa., took victory in the opener following a thrilling six-car battle for the majority of the 38-lap race. He then backed it up in the nightcap by edging Josh Green, from Mount Kisco, N.Y., who won last weekend’s opening round of the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires at St. Petersburg, in a photo finish.
Sweden’s Viktor Andersson bounced back from a challenging Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship debut last week at St. Petersburg to post the fastest lap during virtual qualifying to secure his first SimMetric Driver Performance Labs Pole Award.
Andersson soon slipped back into the pack at the beginning of the first of two 20-minute races, which quickly evolved into a dynamic six-car battle for the lead. Positions changed almost constantly around the tricky 1.25-mile egg-shaped oval, with real-life oval specialist Trey Burke (Joe Dooling Autosports) dicing wheel to wheel with the likes of NTT INDYCAR SERIES veterans Sage Karam (who, coincidentally, serves as Burke’s real life driver coach), RC Enerson and Conor Daly. Canadian Lucas Mann and top Road to Indy prospect Jason Pribyl, from Glenview, Ill., also were in the thick of the action.
Enerson, from New Port Richey, Fla., led onto the final lap, but iRacing veteran Karam managed to take the lead on the back straightaway and narrowly hold off Enerson for the victory. The four cars battling right behind all made contact in the sprint to the finish line, although Burke was credited with third ahead of Daly, from Noblesville, Ind., Mann and Pribyl.
Race Two began with the top-10 finishers inverted to form the starting grid. USF2000 driver Dylan Christie (Turn 3 Motorsports), from Princeton, N.J., lined up on the pole position alongside Road to Indy Prospect Dean Dybdahl, from Grand Island, Fla.
Canadian Road to Indy Prospect Mac Clark soon displaced Christie and continued to circulate among the leading pack until being involved in one of two separate crashes on lap 16. Enerson and Daly also were embroiled in the wrecks which led to a neutralization of the field with a full-course caution.
Versatile Australian James Davison, an Indianapolis 500 veteran and former winner of races in both Indy Pro 2000 and Indy Lights, led at the restart and continued to run among a pack of four cars all jostling mightily for the lead.
The action was fast and furious but, perhaps inevitably, ended in disaster for two of the protagonists as Davison and Mann made contact entering Turn One with less than three minutes remaining.
Karam and Green were left alone to fight it out for the win, with Karam prevailing by less than a car’s length at the checkered flag.
After taking the restart at the back of the pack following a precautionary (and virtual) pit stop to check for damage, Enerson charged back through the field to edge Andersson for third place at the finish line. Pribyl and Christie completed the top six.
After a successful opening event for the real-life Road to Indy season last weekend on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., competitors now are focused on an Open Test set for March 21/22 at Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Ala. The scenic 2.3-mile road course also will host the next two rounds of competition on April 30/May 1. The brand-new USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires series, a stepping stone onto the Road to Indy, will be present at the Barber test in preparation for their first race weekend at the equally new Ozarks International Raceway in Gravois Hills, Mo., on April 22-24.
Sage Karam (#24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Tatuus PM-18): “It was cool to get on here with these guys. I coach Trey Burke so being able to race with him on iRacing was pretty fun as well after coming off the strong weekend he had in St. Pete. As far as the actual sim races are concerned, they went pretty well obviously with two wins. It couldn’t have ended up any better. It was basically just figuring out where the grip was, how to get through the corner the best to maximize exit speed down the straights and I felt like I was able to do that no matter what lane I was in. It seemed if you were able to lift off the throttle a bit sooner and get the thing pointed and back to power a bit more aggressively, you could stay flat on the exit and that’s how I got some of those pretty big runs.”