Last year Karam was involved in the five car battle for the last three spots on the grid. Eventually he qualified 31stSt For the third year in a row, ahead of Will Power and Simona De Silvestro, this trio beat Charlie Kimball and RC Enerson on the last row of the grid.
Karam then put on his best performance in Indy, charging through to take seventh place.
Recalling last year’s anxious weekend, Karam told Motorsport.com the problems started when the BorgWarner turbos were adjusted from 1.3 bar to 1.4 bar for Fast Friday and qualifying weekend.
“When we added the horsepower we kind of missed the aero balance and when I went out for my first qualifier I had too much downforce and it was too conservative. I was too easy.
“Then later in the day I took downforce and it was better, but until then you can’t cool the car enough and the track is a bit hotter than before, so you’ll never go faster. So the first time is your real chance, and when we screwed up, we screwed up.
“So that first day of qualifying last year was about making sure the balance was right for that one shot on Sunday [Bump Day]. Sure enough, we did well. We drove faster on Sunday than on Saturday and not many people did that last year.
“That’s the hard part about being an Indy-only team — figuring out those little things that other teams have figured out at other tracks. But I have the feeling that we’re in better control this year than in previous years. And with Santino [Ferrucci] because a teammate is helping – that will help us complete the testing program much faster.”
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing looked very quick in opening practice, with Karam and Ferrucci third and sixth quickest, and 27-year-old Karam said he was grateful to have driven IndyCar’s test days in April.
“What I love about racing with Dreyer & Reinbold is knowing that in May I’ll be getting into a car that’s really roadworthy,” he said. “There is nothing wrong with that. The paint is super smooth, the body fit is perfect. It’s the best car they have. These guys certainly go the extra mile.
“It’s nice to have had a day and a half in April – I don’t normally have that luxury. That morning would have been there to undo the kinks and get back on track and get the whole thing done [Refresher] Thing to do the 210-215mph phase. Getting that all out of the way in April and then having a day after that allowed me to come back here in May and be there straight from the pits.
“I was floored on the first lap, we went straight through the checklist so this is definitely the most comfortable thing I’ve experienced here on Day 1.”
However, Karam doesn’t assume that pace in race trim means he’ll be quick in qualifying this weekend. He learned that the hard way last year.
He said: “That’s the hard part – not getting too excited too soon. It is Tuesday.
“It’s cool to be fast, but it doesn’t really mean anything. I’ve been feeling pretty good for the last year and I think I was in the top 10 almost every day until Fast Friday. Then I left Fast Friday and I was like, ‘Oh boy, I might have trouble with the jerk.’
“Luckily I don’t have to deal with that this year. It’s a shame for the fans because they love the whole banging thing… but me? I’m so glad I don’t have to go through all that drama again!”
Photo by: IndyCar Series