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.