Father and Son from Pennsylvania Are Living Out Their Own Personal 'Field of Dreams' at Iowa Speedway This Father's Day Weekend NEWTON, Iowa, June 17 - The 1989 film "Field of Dreams" revolves around baseball, not auto racing, but Sage and Jody...
Father and Son from Pennsylvania Are Living Out Their Own Personal 'Field of Dreams' at Iowa Speedway This Father's Day Weekend
NEWTON, Iowa, June 17 - The 1989 film "Field of Dreams" revolves around baseball, not auto racing, but Sage and Jody Karam's story has so many similarities to the film that it's downright eerie.
On Saturday Jody Karam will be helping his 15-year-old son Sage participate in the USF2000 race at Iowa Speedway in Newton, which is about 113 miles from Dyersville, Iowa, where the film was shot.
The movie, which was adapted from the novel "Shoeless Joe" by W.P. Kinsella, deals with taking risks to follow dreams, following through on blind faith, destiny, going the distance and the complicated relationships between fathers and sons.
The fact that the Karams will be racing in Iowa on Father's Day weekend could be just a coincidence - or like so many things in the movie, perhaps it's not such a coincidence after all.
Sage Karam goes into the fourth race of the series, which is presented by Cooper Tires and powered by Mazda, as the points leader. How he got in that position and the role his father played in his story is a plot that would appeal to movie-goers as well as sports fans.
In 1999 Jody Karam and his wife, Karen, purchased a tract of land in Nazareth, Pa., across a field from the estates of racing legends Mario and Michael Andretti. Before the Karams could save enough money to build a house on the property, Jody Karam had a friend plow a rudimentary oval track into the field.
One day shortly thereafter, when Sage was just 4 years old, Jody asked his wife and son to wait for him in the field until he arrived in his pickup. After he pulled up, he wheeled a small kart out of the bed of the truck, and Sage Karam's racing career was born. The tot quickly figured out how to work the gas and brake pedals, and was soon buzzing around the makeshift dirt track at alarming speeds.
Jody Karam vividly recalls those days. "I had seen the movie 'Field of Dreams,' and I thought about it as I watched Sage practice in our own field for hours on end," he said. "The kid never got tired of driving, and he would practice until we ran out of gas.
"As he drove, there were times when I would glance over my left shoulder to Michael Andretti's home, and then to the right towards Mario's house, and I couldn't help but wonder if our family could ever race professionally like them. Hey, what red-blooded American dad wouldn't have those dreams?"
Eventually the Karams saved enough money so they could start building their own home on their property. The landscaping followed, and the dirt track cut into the Pennsylvania clay became just a memory.
But Sage Karam's racing career was just beginning, not ending. He started to compete at a local karting track, and quickly won some club championships. At 7 he made his first waves on the national karting scene, winning a national championship in the kid kart division at the finals in Las Vegas.
Thirty-five national karting championships later, Sage Karam is now competing on the first step of the Indy Racing League's 'Road to Indy' driver development program, driving a formula car powered by a Mazda engine in the USF2000 National Championship.
And who is his team owner? None other than one of those famous neighbors, Michael Andretti.
Unlike the character Kevin Costner played in the movie, Ray Kinsella, Sage Karam already appreciates the sacrifices his parents have made for him. He doesn't have to wait for Father's Day to acknowledge the special bond he and his dad developed through countless hours on the road and at racetracks around the country.
"It's going to be very special to be in Iowa with my dad on Father's Day," he said. "He drove me to kart races all over the country in that pickup truck. I remember sleeping in that truck when we couldn't afford hotels. Karting was real tough on our money situation too, but my parents always found a way to get me to the races. I don't think my parents will ever realize how much I appreciate what they did for me."
"It's unbelievable how much we were inspired by the Andrettis, and now Sage is driving for Michael," Jody Karam said. "It's kind of magical how the whole thing unfolded. I think even Michael is amazed how Sage evolved from that little kid in the field to the driver he has become today."
The Karams admit that there have been times when it would have been easy to leave racing.
"In the movie, Ray's brother-in-law wants him to sell the farm and the ball field so he doesn't go bankrupt and lose everything," Jody Karam noted. "We've lived those times in reality. But Ray never listened to the doubters and he continued to build the field. He followed the dream. I have never had a doubt that Sage will make it in racing."
Just like the movie, it's all about going the distance.
Sage Karam will be in the red Andretti Autosport No. 8 sponsored by the Michael Fux Foundation and Comfort Revolution when the USF2000 cars take to Iowa Speedway's 0.875-mile tri-oval this weekend. He and his fellow competitors will practice at 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Friday before qualifying is held at 9 a.m. Saturday. Their race is slated to get the green flag at 3:35 p.m. Saturday afternoon, right before qualifying for the IZOD IndyCar Series. A Star Mazda race and a Firestone Indy Lights race follow on Saturday's schedule, while Sunday is reserved for the headlining IndyCar event, the Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by Pioneer, which starts at noon.
Live timing and scoring of the USF2000 race as well as live streaming video coverage are planned for the series' Web site at usf2000.com and indycar.com.
In addition to being part of the IRL's 'Road to Indy' ladder system, the USF2000 National Championship is part of the MAZDASPEED Motorsports driver development program.