Sage Karam made a statement Wednesday night.

The NTT IndyCar Series veteran racked up his series-leading fifth win of 2020 at Phillip Island in the HyperX Grand Prix, leading all but three laps, after a daring first lap pass.

“It was a good night overall,” Karam said. “Was able to get out, break the draft, get in clean air and run a clean race.”

Karam reignited his rivalry with two-time defending Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment champion Adam Blocker in the first seconds of the race.

As the field barreled into the wide-open first turn, Karam used the draft to slingshot inside of Blocker, who captured his third pole of 2020.

Just before making his move, the two appeared to touch. On corner exit, Karam sliced across the nose of Blocker, completing the pass. The contact gave Blocker a mandatory rear wing change on his first pit stop, ending any hope to compete for a win.

He would rally to finish third.

“I took the racing line into turn one, lap one, and Sage just hit the back of me,” a frustrated Blocker said. “Could’ve wrecked the whole field. I had to lift a little and he cleared me. I was happy with my pace. I had the pace for him, pace was right there. It would’ve been a fight the whole race. It just sucks.”

Karam defended the aggression, which gave him a clear track for the rest of the race.

“I had a really big draft going into turn one,” Karam said. “I was able to make the move. This track isn’t one of my favorites because it’s easy to make a mistake. But I ran a mistake-free race.”

Joshua Chin benefitted from the wing change for Blocker, finishing second.

“Happy to take second, it’s good for the points,” Chin said. “Adam had those issues with the rear wing and that let me get out there all alone in second, and was just able to run quick enough to keep second.”

Andrew Kinsella finished fourth, with Connor Harrington rallying from 31st to fifth to keep his championship hopes alive. Harrington served an EOL penalty at the beginning of the race for contact in the previous round.

25 of the 33 drivers to start the race finished, with 15 on the lead lap. Several incidents shook up the field.

On lap two, Bryan Carey spun in turn 6. Dustin Wardlow, Tyler Graaf and Jason Galvin all made contact with the spinning Carey. Only Wardlow would continue, and several other cars also received damage in the ensuing stackup.

On lap 14, Damon Martinez and Nathan Lewis raced wheel-to-wheel through the tight Honda and Siberia complex, only to make contact coming up the hill towards turn 9. Lewis shot off the track, slid through the grass and then plowed into Brian Yaczik.

Martinez was penalized after the race for avoidable contact. Lewis and Yaczik could not continue.

The top five in points also finished top five in the race, and the championship picture looks similar following the event.

Karam, searching for his first Lionheart Racing Series powered by HyperX championship, leads Kinsella by 35 points. Blocker sits seven further back in third, with Harrington fourth and within striking distance as well.

The Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment heads back to the ovals for the next two events, the second leg of a three-in-a-row stretch, this Wednesday night.

The DMLC Racing Channel 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway can be seen live Wednesday, October 14, on the Global SimRacing Channel and iRacing eSports Network at 10:35 p.m. EST.

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