Sage Karam is back racing at Pocono for first time since a fatal IndyCar crash in 2015

This Saturday, the NASCAR Xfinity Series will make its annual stop at Pocono Raceway for what is shaping up to be the latest development in the race for the regular season championship. But for Sage Karam, it will be far more than that.

Karam, driving the No. 45 for Alpha Prime Racing, will be making his first start at Pocono since being involved in a life and career-changing incident at the speedway in 2015. Seven years after his crash in Turn 1 ended up killing veteran driver Justin Wilson, Karam is finally ready to take to Pocono again and turn the page on a dark chapter in his life.

“I’ve taken the necessary time I needed to take before I could properly go there,” Karam said, per the Associated Press. “If I had the opportunity to race there before, I don’t know that I would have been ready. If I’m not ready, I’m not going to do it. I don’t want to put myself at harm or put anybody else at harm. I feel like now I’m able to maturely go there and do it.”

In August of 2015, Karam — then a rising star in IndyCar with a cocky, aggressive streak — was leading the ABC Supply 500 when he spun and crashed with 21 laps to go, spewing debris across the track as the rest of the field drove through. As it bounced across the racing surface, the nose cone off of Karam’s car struck Justin Wilson in the head. Wilson suffered a massive head injury and was immediately taken to a nearby hospital, where he died one day later.

The crash that took Wilson’s life intensified calls for IndyCar to close the cockpit the same way Jules Bianchi’s 2014 crash led to such calls in Formula 1. IndyCar adopted the aeroscreen to protect drivers in the cockpit in 2020, after F1 introduced the halo in 2018.

Karam’s momentum towards a full-time IndyCar career fizzled out into a series of one-off appearances. Eventually, though, Karam found the emotional support he needed. He not only reconnected with a sports psychologist, but he also became an assistant coach, working with his father on the Easton High School high school wrestling team staff. He got married in 2021, and a friendship with Justin Wilson’s brother Stefan — as well as meeting Justin’s two daughters — has helped him forgive himself.

A native of Nazareth, Pa., Karam now returns to the track that changed his life to not only continue his transition into stock car racing, but also to give himself some much needed and hard-won closure.

“I’m ready to close the chapter of driving at that place again,” Karam said. “I feel like that’s a big part of the process for me, to just be able to drive through there again. Turn 1 at full speed. I want to make good memories at that place. And I feel like this is the start of that .”

While he has continued to race in the Indianapolis 500 annually, Karam has shifted his focus to stock cars and made eight starts in the Xfinity Series since last summer. His best finish has been 16th on two occasions at Bristol and Circuit of the Americas.

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