Baltimore Preview

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This weekend, the IndyCar Series heads to one of my favorite cities on the east coast. There aren’t many things I thank my ex-wife for, other than my children. She was from Philadelphia and had lived in Baltimore for a brief time. She always insisted that we stop in Baltimore on the way to Philly to spend some time in the Inner Harbor at Baltimore. For that, I am thankful. Otherwise, I may never have experienced that vibrant area of shops, bars and restaurants. I’m not keen on shopping. In my earlier life, I spent more time (and money) in bars than I care to think about. Of course, I’ve always loved to eat. If you have any interest in any of those, the Inner Harbor offers outstanding selections for all – situated in a very historic and scenic setting.

The Grand Prix of Baltimore runs through the streets of downtown Baltimore. The portion after turn Two runs alongside the Inner Harbor and makes for an interesting site, with IndyCars flashing by the seaport. The circuit also races around Oriole Park at Camden Yards – home of the Baltimore Orioles for the past twenty-two seasons (which seems hard to believe).

I am not normally a fan of street races, but since this race debuted in 2011 – it has been one that I look forward to. It has many quirks to it, which I find very appealing. First of all, the pits are on the opposite side of the track from the start-finish line. The layout also is very difficult to navigate, but does offer some decent passing opportunities. Last year, the track had to be reconfigured on race weekend due to bumps going over a railroad track that runs through the circuit.

Financially, this race has been a question mark since its inception. After the first race, the City of Baltimore terminated the contract of the promoter due to unpaid bills. By February of 2012, the city entered into a five year agreement with another promoter that promised a lot and delivered very little. The contract was cancelled less than two months after signing, and the 2012 race was in doubt with less than five months to go. Fortunately, Michael Andretti led the efforts to step in and save the event – much like he did in Milwaukee.

There have also been other controversies. For the inaugural race; the city removed several trees from the race area, prompting lawsuits. There were also reports of questionable contributions to civic leaders from businesses that stood to profit from the race being held in the area. Then there were those that questioned the viability of the race to the downtown area. All in all, it seems like this event has always been held in a shroud of controversies and uncertainty.

That’s a shame because it really seems to be an excellent event – from my couch, anyway. This race was on our radar as one to attend this year. However, the unexpected budget crunch caused by Susan’s job loss earlier this year, has made us put trips like these on hold for the time being. So far, there hasn’t been a huge clamoring for Graphic Design Managers over fifty in Nashville. Maybe that’ll change this fall. Whenever it does change, this race will be on our short list to go to soon. It’s close enough, the racing has been very good at the two previous events and the locale is unbeatable.

If you are planning your first trip there next season, don’t count on it being a Labor Day destination like it has been in its short history. Next year, there is a conflict on the city’s calendar and the date has to be moved. I suppose we’ll find out the exact date whenever the final 2014 IndyCar schedule is announced. Word has it that the city is open for a return to the Labor Day date in 2015. That’ll be great unless the series continues its plans to finish its schedule by Labor Day. I’m not sure I would want this event to be the final leg of the schedule. Being the traditionalist that I am, I like the idea of the 500-miler at Fontana being the last race of the season.

Will Power won the inaugural event in 2011. Last year, Ryan Hunter-Reay won the race and put him in position to win the championship two weeks later at Fontana. Either of those drivers would be a good pick to win this weekend. Helio Castroneves is leading the points, but has been driving a little too cautious for my liking. He is driving to not lose the championship instead of trying to win it. I don’t see him making any bold moves with only a thirty-nine point lead over Scott Dixon.

After all of the controversy over last week’s pit stop debacle between Scott Dixon and Will Power, you can bet that Scott Dixon hasn’t cooled off a whole lot and will be a man on a mission. His mission will be to settle for nothing short of winning. I think that’s exactly what he will do. I also think that Helio will be so cautious that he ends up with an unforeseen disaster from being content to run in the middle of the pack, instead of up-front. Therefore, Scott Dixon will win and head into the five-week racing draught of September with the points lead. As an Helio fan, I hope I’m wrong.

George Phillips

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6 Responses to “Baltimore Preview”

  1. I have Dixon getting more points out of this race than Helio. I also have RHR doing well. My boy, Hinchcliff is falling off and I hope to see him bounce back this weekend.

  2. Savage Henry Says:

    I went to this event the last two years and it is really a great time. The area enclosed by the track is compact, so it is very easy to get around to various vantage points for track viewing. There are tons of food, beverage, live music, and other activities both within and right outside the track. If you go, plan to make a day of it. I hope it stays on the schedule.

    Also, be sure to get a paddock pass. The paddock is in the Convention Center, which among other things means air conditioning and clean, indoor bathrooms. This is a must if you are bringing women and/or children to the race with you.

    My only real beef is that it is impossible to get back in the area of pit lane. If you are a fan of seeing the action in the pits, Baltimore is not a place for you.

    Regarding the race, with tempers still running hot from last week, being in front of the carnage on restarts will be key. I see an all-Ganassi front row again this weekend, and Dario is going to make his car 20 feet wide all day to keep Dixon clean. Unless something weird happens with pit strategy or rain (30% chance on Sunday), Dixon is your winner.

  3. Sounds like a great time. Also seems like it could be the last race in Baltimore. Ganassi is coming on strong after such a lame start–they should probably be checked for HGH.

    It’ll probably be Dario or Dixon with Helio in the top five. But if I had my druthers, it’ll be a race with just enough rain to screw everything up and give Simona her first win.

  4. I’d love to go to Baltimore too, and I think with the proximity to Atlantic City, I might even convince my wife to go (at least once.) But, as is George’s case, personal finances won’t allow it this year. Hopefully they’ll manage to keep it around. As to the race itself, I think Scott Dixon might be driving pissed, and that spells trouble for everyone else. I think he wins, but Helio sneaks onto the podium to keep the points lead.

  5. tim nothhelfer Says:

    Growing up near Detroit I just assumed Baltimore wouldn’t be very attractive. It looks on fantastic on television, I really want to be there.

  6. While it is not likely that I will ever get to Baltimore, I have read and heard many positive comments about the race from drivers and fans alike. I certainly hope the race can remain on the schedule. Based on my experience at the Milwaukee MIle, the Andretti group does not promote on the cheap. With the declining interest in racing at all levels, perhaps the attendence levels at most tracks the past few years may be all we can reasonably hope for. I am not one who believes TV ratings drive track attendence. With so many track promoters saying that they cannot afford IndyCar, perhaps IndyCar needs to adjust their business model to somehow make the series more affordable. They seem to be trying to sell champagne to people with a beer budget. Baltimore and all the tracks need continuity to be viable.

    At the IndyCar.com website before any race there will be newspaper stories posted from a variety of local papers. Those stories generate interest in the drivers and the race. But when you have an entire section of the country, such as the northwest and western Canada without a race, you will not see stories written about Baltimore or any other race. It is only the diehard fans in areas without a race who are going to watch a race from somewhere else on TV. I am only repeating what has been said countless times, but IndyCar needs to be at Phoenix, and Michigan, and the northwest, and Road America and if promoters at those tracks cannot currently afford IndyCar, then IndyCar needs to find ways to make their series affordable. Fans for Milwaukee and Baltimore and other tracks need to know that there will be a race next year. Listening to IndyCar management talk about another race at Indy where they already have a fan base or racing in winter in other countries does not give me confidence for the future of the series.

    Oh, I got sidetracked. I think a very motivated Scott Dixon will win the race with RHR or Marco being my second choices.

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