Sage Karam was the true ROTY at Indianapolis

Was Sage Karam more deserving of Indy 500 ROTY honors than Kurt Busch?

So Kurt Busch won the Rookie of the Year award at the 98th Indianapolis 500 on May 25? I don’t think anyone was surprised by that as it is a political award and Busch did a very good job keeping his car under control for 200 laps around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Kurt Busch, Andretti Autosport Honda
Kurt Busch, Andretti Autosport Honda

Photo by: Walter G. Arce, Sr. KBI/

NASCAR’s 2004 premier series champion started 12th and finished sixth in that race; and won a heck of a lot more money than he did later in the day when he fell out of the Coke 600 with engine problems. Busch’s Honda engine in his Andretti Autosport #26 SureTone Dallara/Honda/Firestone Indy car never missed a beat.

But Busch, sad to say, is a rookie in name only. There’s precedence for having co-rookies of the year; it’s been done before and I question why INDYCAR and IMS didn’t do just that in 2014. After all, true rookie Sage Karam, who’d never raced an Indy car until that particular Sunday, started 31st on the final row of the 33-car grid and raced his way to ninth at the close. Some of Karam’s passes occurred during pit stops, as his Dreyer & Reinbold-based crew seemed to have lost nothing since they raced last year.

Team engineer Mark Weida confirmed that Karam’s in- and out-laps were exceptional for someone that hadn’t performed at this level ever before and his passes on the track were extremely clean. Weida also said the crew’s performance belied the fact that they hadn’t been in action at the Speedway for a year.

Sage Karam, Dreyer and Reinbold - Kingdom Racing Chevrolet
Sage Karam, Dreyer and Reinbold - Kingdom Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Jay Alley

The 19-year-old high school senior Karam missed his prom to qualify for the race. He looked good on Saturday but missed the setup on Sunday and qualified slower than he did the prior day while most everyone else improved. He also had his single, extremely light contact with the wall during Carb Day final one-hour practice that was easily repairable; Busch, on the other hand smacked the T2 SAFER barrier on Monday, May 19 and had to go to a backup car. Karam’s save in his Friday incident was masterful and appreciated by everyone that witnessed it.

So, much as I respect Kurt Busch for his accomplishments in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NHRA’s Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ Pro Stock category and in his first attempt to win the Indianapolis 500, my personal nod would have gone to the kid from Nazareth, PA that’s walking around Belle Isle Raceway this weekend wondering where his next ride is coming from.

Because Karam is a member of the Chip Ganassi Racing family that coordinated his DRR/Ganassi ride at Indy, I’m sure he’ll have work to do soon enough. I’m hoping he gets to go the same route as last year’s Indy 500 rookie of the year Carlos Munoz and find himself attached to a full-time Verizon IndyCar Series ride in 2015. If actions speak louder than words, Sage Karam’s performance on the biggest stage in motor racing on the final Sunday in May certainly merits employment.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Event Indy 500
Track Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Drivers Kurt Busch , Chip Ganassi , Carlos Munoz , Sage Karam
Teams Andretti Autosport , Chip Ganassi Racing
Article type Analysis
Tags indy 500, indycar, kurt busch, roty, sage karam