Iowa Race Review: Sage Gone Wild

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Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay won Iowa for the third time Saturday night, but twenty year old rookie Sage Karam stole the show, swerving and chopping his way to third for his first IndyCar podium finish. Clearly on a roll the last several races, in short Sage went wild. Josef Newgarden led much of the latter stages of the frantic race only to finish second while Graham Rahal led another charge from seventeenth to fourth making it an American sweep in the heartland. Andretti Autosport’s Carlos Munoz rounded out the top five in a favorable night for Andretti‘s team.

Jul 18, 2015; Newton, IA, USA; IndyCar Series driver Ryan Hunter-Reay (28) reacts after winning the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-230374 ORIG FILE ID:  20150718_lbm_ad1_319.JPG

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Sparks flew throughout the last half of the race as intense racing and hectic traffic around the tiny oval led to drivers being either exhausted or enraged or both. Karam enjoyed another rocket ride to the front in the number eight car. Were it not for a slow right front tire change during his last pit stop he might have fared even better. At one point Sage simultaneously showed his immaturity and fearlessness, screaming about Jack Hawksworth on the radio. “Dude, I’m alongside him and he won’t back out!” Ed Carpenter appeared high on the list of drivers Karam managed to offend on his charismatic, choppy charge as the veteran gestured repeatedly from the car and then confronted the Ganassi driver immediately after the race.

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Ambling angrily down pit lane with cameras following, IndyCar’s only owner-driver animatedly got in the youngster’s face and loudly lectured him about “respect.” It was an amusing scene reminiscent of Danica and Briscoe’s contretemps on pit lane at Indy in 2008, though it seemed to us the likelihood of violence was far greater back when the diva was stomping down the asphalt. The Iowa Corn 300 threatened to get all NASCAR for a minute there, then it suddenly chopped and swerved in another direction. Townsend Bell said of Karam’s wild driving, “He was a very darty, swervy driver at the end of Fontana and . . . he’s not making a lot of friends right now.”

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Super aggressive Graham Rahal made contact with no less than three competitors’ cars during the frantic show as the iron fist of race control largely sat on their hands – again. He also encountered more problems in the pits with shifting issues but managed to overcome them. Cars were blocking and chopping all over the track and in the steamy conditions tempers flared as a result. Helio battled his old friend and rival Tony Kanaan several times, swerving and cutting like so many others on the tight track.

Sage Karam (8) leads Ed Carpenter during the IndyCar Series auto race Saturday, July 18, 2015, at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) ORG XMIT: IACN120

Photo from sports.usatoday.com

Championship leader Juan Montoya wound up in the wall as first out of the race, making the points battle more interesting and giving no fewer than four interviews on NBCSN within the span of three hours, you know? Bourdais, Wilson, Kimball, Coletti and Sato also had issues with the wall and/or suspension pieces, which seemed to suffer a terrible strain on the short track. For Ganassi, Kanaan’s Chevy gave up on him and Dixon’s encountered problems too, while Pippa’s Coyne Honda eventually became un-drivable. Fortunately no one was injured in the melees as only budgets, cars and egos were dented.

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NBCSN’s coverage was shoddier than usual with several mistakes being made. Did you notice the timing issues during the pit stops? Helio’s clock started late during one stop depicting a four and a half second service and other inaccuracies cropped up, too. Townsend Bell said Karam was only “eighteen,” though Leigh Diffy later corrected him, accurately stating his age as twenty. Diffy misidentified Karam as Rahal during the final shootout to the checkers, though both do drive red cars. The pre race show ran a full hour and was largely forgettable, as the Paul Tracy-Sebastien Bourdais rapprochement was waaaay over sold by both Curt Cavin in his piece and the network in their teases. Paul Tracy redeemed the broadcast somewhat though, referring to Montoya as “flying home on his private jet” as the race was still unfolding.

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Sadly Miller’s grid run was a bit of an embarrassment, the crusty commentator yelling at one point “I took care of the woman!” after briefly interviewing Pippa Mann. He then repeatedly dissed his host state on air – “Who wants to go to Iowa?” he asked, indignantly. In light of last night’s wild show, it may be time to rethink the grid runs. It may also be time to consider multiple races at Iowa every year.

Post Race Quotes –

Ed Carpenter: “You’re gonna hurt somebody and you’re gonna hurt yourself if you keep fucking driving like that.”

Sage Karam: “He’s just angry at my driving, he says I squeezed him a few times. But, you know – same way he drove me. It’s hard racing, I’m going for wins and that’s how we’re racing. It’s IndyCar racing, it ain’t go-karts anymore.”

Michael Andretti: “We love Iowa, man. Unfortunately we made a couple of bad calls for Marco.”

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