Top Dog: Karam wants to impress with win on home track
LONG POND, Pa. (AP) With the dog days of the IndyCar season in full swing, Sage Karam traded a ride on four wheels for a walk with his four-legged friend.
Max didn't need a firesuit.
Rather, the goldendoodle pitter-pattered into the Pocono Raceway media center wearing a ''Karam'' jersey with the No. 8 on the back.
Max then sat with Karam on stage for a press conference. Naturally, Max had no comment.
The 20-year-old Karam wasn't so tongue tied, and put out a ''Help Wanted'' sign for the weekend.
''I need someone to watch him,'' said Karam, laughing.
He can hire a dog sitter from nearby - more than 200 friends and family are expected to attend Sunday's race, the first IndyCar race at the track for the driver from Nazareth, Pennsylvania.
At least Karam kept his firesuit on for Saturday's qualifying run. Karam, who posed shirtless with Max for a photo he posted on Twitter, was mocked relentlessly by his peers and deleted the tweet.
''I just went for a run and I didn't have a shirt on,'' he said. ''They were like, `Oh, it looks like you're naked with your dog.' I was like, it's just my dog. He's my best friend. Chill.''
Karam, known as SK$ (SK Money), has infused some needed personality into the IndyCar Series. He's had a prom dance in the paddock and drove around in a pink Camaro dubbed ''The Karamo'' with a decal ''Honk if you think I'm sexy.''
Karam wants to make as much noise on the track and the former Indy Lights champ has impressed driving for team owner Chip Ganassi.
Karam is 18th in the standings, with two top-five finishes in his rookie season. He finished a career-best third at Iowa Speedway in a race that became more notable for a confrontation with Ed Carpenter.
''I think if people want to call me the villain, I'm not going to tell them to stop,'' he said. ''I just go out there every weekend and drive my hardest.''
One of IndyCar's most promising stars is most at home in Nazareth, long known as the town the Andretti family put on the racing map.
Karam is close with his family and spent the last few weeks living at home and grappling with his dad Jody, a decorated wrestling coach. Dad can still take his kid and whipped out his phone to show pictures of him putting Sage in a headlock.
''He was talking trash on me and calling me out in front of the team,'' Jody Karam said. ''I had to do it in front of all his crew.''
Jody had more bad news - ''The Karamo'' is no more. He said Chevrolet took the car back because Karam wasn't old enough for insurance purposes.
Karam also is tight with fellow IndyCar driver Marco Andretti and the pair go for runs and make frivolous bets over race results.
''He doesn't care about making friends,'' Andretti said. ''Some of that is just being a rookie. He'll realize he's going to need some friends at some point. I think he's a tremendous talent, for sure.''
After Karam finished second to Carlos Munoz - Gabby Chaves was third - at an Indy Lights race at Pocono in 2013, he grabbed the track microphone and bellowed that no one would disrespect him on his home turf.
He feared Munoz and Chaves would make it a 1-2 Colombian finish.
''I was just mad,'' Karam said. ''I was in a Colombian sandwich. One Colombian came in and whipped my butt. I wasn't going to let two of them do it.''
Karam's starts 20th on Sunday in his 15th and final race of the season. He doesn't have funding for next week's finale at Sonoma, California, and hoped to land enough needed sponsorship cash to drive a full slate in 2016. Finishing the season as best in show in the rookie class could help his cause.
''If he wins Sunday,'' Jody Karam said, ''and we're in striking distance of rookie of the year, I'll just put the race on my credit card.''
This story has been corrected to show the finale is at Sonoma, California next week.