Sage Karam took a huge step toward securing the Firestone Indy Lights title after a lights-to-flag win on the streets of Houston.
It was Schmidt Peterson Motorsport driver Karam’s third win of the season, and his first on a road/street circuit. But his result was made all the more significant by the catastrophic afternoons suffered by many of his main rivals.
Carlos Munoz was one of the victims. The preseason title favorite had come into the weekend just two points behind Karam, but his hopes were dealt a huge blow when his Andretti Autosport car came to a stop with a mechanical problem midway through the race.
A similar problem accounted for Peter Dempsey, who had climbed from eighth on the grid to third only to encounter a problem with three laps remaining. The need to remove his stricken Team Moore car from the circuit meant that the race finished under yellows, saving Karam the stress of having to survive a late restart.
While Munoz and Dempsey were sidelined by mechanical dramas, Jack Hawksworth’s problems were largely self-inflicted. The Briton was running third going into a mid-race restart, but lost two places in one corner, clumsily punted Zach Veach, and then lost another two positions in one move a lap later.
It was little surprise that he was black-flagged a short time later, with race control having credited him with an impressive hat-trick of infractions: taking a short cut, blocking, and avoidable contact. He still finished sixth, but it was not a shining moment in what has otherwise been a good season for the reigning Pro Mazda champion.
Amid the chaos, the only other title contender who made it through the race intact was Karam’s Schmidt teammate Gabby Chaves, who finished second.
Returnee Conor Daly, who had started 10th, capitalized on some good driving and the problems suffered by those around him to complete the podium.