By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
It was a long and agonizing night for both Sage Karam and Takuma Sato, who neither saw the finish in the marathon that was the Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway.
The race went past midnight due to a long weather delay and later a Lap 56 red flag due to the Mother Nature uncooperative ways, as both had polar opposite performances.
For Karam, he was struggling finding speed in his No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet and was involved in his first accident on Lap 16 after going for a spin in Turn 4.
With no room to avoid Karam, Felix Rosenqvist’s No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda collided into Karam’s front wing, causing both cars to pit and replace the damaged wing. Rosenqvist would recover to finish 14th.
During the red flag, Karam explained his viewpoint of the incident and loose car that overshadowed his first NTT IndyCar Series oval start outside of Indianapolis since his rookie year in 2015.
“The car started out pretty good in the early laps, but I had this issue going on last night. We were just starting to get looser, looser and looser as the runs were going on. I thought we made changes overnight to fix it.
“As soon as it became apparent that it was starting to keep going that way, I was trying to work the weight jacker and put some under steer in the thing. I just couldn’t save that one. This place is tricky with the bumps and the tires gone away, I just felt pretty bad for the Carlin boys. The car has been pretty good all week.”
Once the rain stopped and the track was dried, Karam would ride around in 22nd, losing multiple laps until gaining a spot from the off-pace No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Honda of Marco Andretti. Karam would hold the 21st running position for the time being.
Sato on the other hand, was having a strong race. Notably, running in the top-five throughout the night and one of the strongest Honda powered entries all week.
However, his night slowly changed once he began struggling competing with drivers on fresher tires and finding competitive pace as he went from fourth on Lap 100 to outside the top-10 when he pitted on Lap 121.
Even a bit off sequence during green flag stops didn’t halt him from pursuing a result after finishing last in the previous round in Toronto last Sunday, moving up to second at one point.
Then on Lap 186, Sato, who wasn’t far removed from pitting for fresh tires, was catching ground on both Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power. Suddenly, Sato had to react quickly and hit the brakes on his No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda. It resulted his car falling off the pace and from behind, Karam incidentally ran into the back of Sato.
“I just couldn’t avoid getting into him with how quick that closing rate was when he got up into the gray,” Karam on unable to avoid Sato. “I’m absolutely gutted for SmartStop Self Storage and the entire Carlin team – I really wanted to be able to give them both the result that they deserve. The No. 31 crew did everything they absolutely could to get me back out both times tonight and they’ve been solid all weekend.”
Both would continue, but eventually couldn’t stick around much longer as Karam was the first retiree on Lap 204, scoring his first-career last-place finish in his 19th Indy car start.
Shortly thereafter, Andretti put his miserable night to an end. Meanwhile, Sato’s unfortunate turn of parking his car took place on Lap 216 and wound up 20th. His retirement marked his second straight and third of the season.
This further diminishes any bid of being a massive dark horse for the championship with just five rounds remaining, trailing race winner Josef Newgarden by 176 points. Sato commented that as soon as Karam hit him from behind, the car wasn’t drive-able.
“We got hit from behind and had so much damage. I tried to hang in there, but ultimately couldn’t do it,” said Sato.” I’m sorry for the boys who did a great job and all the fans that remained tonight. It was a shame.
“Ryan and Will were side-by-side and I was directly behind. I had to back off a little bit and it was all under control, but unfortunately, the guy behind maybe couldn’t see it.”
Two more drivers failed to finish the 300-lap race, which were Ed Carpenter due to a heavy shunt in Turn 2 and Colton Herta, whose halfshaft broke in the closing laps.