By Dustin Albino

Sage Karam has always wanted to take a shot at competing in NASCAR. He was just looking for the right opportunity. 

For me to start a real conversation with anybody about going to do one of these races was not very easy,” Karam told “I couldn‘t pick up the phone and just dial up somebody and get that call going.” 

Karam‘s credentials speak for themselves. In 25 NTT IndyCar Series races, he‘s earned one podium finish. But since 2016, he‘s had a ride for each Indianapolis 500 with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Beyond that, he‘s done sports car racing, originally signed to Chip Ganassi Racing out of high school. 

Having one shot each year to prove himself is stressful. He takes it personally when he doesn‘t perform well in the month of May. That‘s what made his seventh-place run in the 2021 Indy 500 more meaningful. 

“I feel like that put my name back on the map,” Karam said of his seventh-place effort in the Indy 500. “That‘s when the opportunity came up to run the Indianapolis road course with Jordan Anderson last year. It was only supposed to be that one race and it turned into, ‘Let‘s go to Bristol, let‘s try a truck race at Martinsville, let‘s go do Phoenix, let‘s try the Charlotte ROVAL.‘ 

“I turned what was only supposed to be that one race and feel what it‘s like, ‘Wow, I‘m really enjoying this, I really like this and I want to do more.‘”

On Karam‘s bucket list was to expand into this forte and try ovals and superspeedways. He thought road course racing would be easily adaptable, given he has a formidable background of turning left and right. Surprisingly, however, it‘s been the opposite. He believes it‘s because a stock car is much heavier than an IndyCar, and he locked up his tires more frequently. 

In four Xfinity Series starts in 2021 for Jordan Anderson Racing, Karam picked up his best finish of 16th at Bristol, a track that demands perfection. He admitted racing at Phoenix in the final race of the year was his biggest challenge. 

After last year, Karam knew he wanted to try his hand at NASCAR more regularly. Over the offseason, Alpha Prime Racing announced he would run a partial schedule in the Nos. 44 and 45 Chevrolets. He had something to prove. 

“It‘s turned now to where I want to get full time into this,” Karam stated. “I want to start competing for points because I haven‘t competed for points in anything in a long time. I think it would be cool to sit there at night and look at the standings and be like, ‘What do I need to pick up these spots?‘”

Tommy Joe Martins, co-owner of Alpha Prime, welcomed Karam to its fold of drivers. The Pennsylvania native is one of 11 drivers to compete in at least one race for Alpha Prime this season. Being a mid-pack Xfinity team, Alpha Prime is a good destination for drivers with limited experience. 

“We believed in Sage‘s talent and wanted to get him in the car as much as we could,” Martins noted. “It‘s been fun to see his growth as a driver over the course of this year.”

That growth includes a quartet of top-20 finishes in seven starts. At Daytona last month, Karam earned the team its first top-five finish by outlasting the late-race carnage. His last three results have all ended in the top 20. 

The other three results ended in the garage. He wrecked out late in his first start of the year at Atlanta and blew an engine in July at the same track. Meanwhile, Noah Gragson intentionally wrecked him at Road America when battling for position inside the top 10. 

While describing 2022 as “great,” it‘s been a learning year for Karam. 

“All of these opportunities, you‘ve got to take full advantage of them and do your absolute best because you‘re only remembered for your last race,” Karam said. “You‘ve got to do well.”

Martins has seen a vast improvement in Karam this season. 

“The big thing for them is getting more experience for him at the end of the year,” Martins said. “The road courses, we know how fast he is. He‘s pretty comfortable on the short tracks. On the speedways, he performed extremely well. His biggest learning curve is going to be on these mile and a half racetracks.”

Beginning this weekend at Bristol, Karam will drive the No. 02 car for Our Motorsports in four of the final eight races of the 2022 season. Originally, he was slated to drive one of Alpha Prime‘s cars at Texas, though that is now looking unlikely because he signed with Our Motorsports. 

Because Karam hasn‘t competed for points since winning the Indy Lights championship in 2013, he wants to soon do so. It eats away at him that he can be competitive in a NASCAR race or crack the top 10 at the Indy 500 and be sitting on the couch the next week. 

There have been many times that Karam thought his racing career would be over. He had tough, honest conversations with his family and he persevered. 

“A lot of the time, you don‘t understand it or get it, but for some reason, you find a way to keep pushing,” Karam mentioned. “A door shuts, another one opens. As cliché as that sounds, it‘s really true.”

His next goal is to be on the NASCAR scene more frequently. Then, he can figure out what he wants to achieve at this level. 

“As a competitor, I want to be chasing wins and doing whatever I can, but you‘ve got to keep things realistic as well,” he said. “This year has been good to learn about the car at a lot of different tracks. But if I can be full time next year, a big goal for me would be to try to contend to make the playoffs. I know that‘s tough and a big goal, but you‘ve got to set goals and I don‘t think it‘s an impossible goal. If I can do that, I think it would show a lot of people over here that I‘m not just this open wheel guy trying to make this transition. I really have made the transition and am trying to make it into a living.”

How realistic is it that Karam will be full time in 2023?

He said, “I think there‘s a pretty good shot. For me, it‘s a high priority to be full time. I made that priority pretty loud within my camp that I don‘t love this part time stuff every year. I want to be full time again and I‘m ready to chase the NASCAR dream and see what we can do over here. I‘m at the point of my life where I can make that transition.”

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