Sep 2, 2013, 9:00 PM EDT
In only three years, the Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT has established itself on the best place on the IndyCar calendar to enjoy a healthy helping of contact, controversy, and crab cakes.
Its place is not yet secured for 2014 despite all indications from the series and race promoters Andretti Sports Marketing, that they’re working to find a suitable date (early to mid-August seems the likely landing point).
Baltimore feels a bit like the red-headed step child among IndyCar street circuits. It doesn’t have Long Beach’s legacy, St. Petersburg’s opening-event buzz, Detroit’s Roger Penske backing, or Toronto’s Canadian selling point.
What it does have, in spurts, is talking and selling points. From the infamous Pratt Street chicane, to the train tracks, to a gorgeous backdrop at Camden Yards and the Inner Harbor, and the nature of the track itself, the passing – and crashing – opportunities are endless. It’s also in a good market for sponsors, as there aren’t a ton of races on the East Coast.
Contrast Sunday’s race with the one at Mid-Ohio about a month ago. The 90 laps on the permanent road course there went caution-free and featured relatively minimal passing, and came down largely to pit strategies and ultimately a late move by Charlie Kimball over Simon Pagenaud.
Sunday at Baltimore was a wrecking free-for-all that ignited tempers, stirred rivalries and created controversies. And has got people talking.
Mid-Ohio was a purer race, while Baltimore was certainly entertaining when it was green. And to be fair to Baltimore, it wasn’t the race with the most cautions this year (7 occurred at Brazil and Sonoma) and was also down from 9 last year to 6 this Sunday, even if it at times it seemed like the cautions wouldn’t stop. The one thing that goes against it was the stretch from Laps 40 to 65, the near constant string of cautions that dropped the average speed below 68 mph.
Which race will you remember more? For me, I’d amend the line from “Wedding Crashers” to “Crab cakes and contact – that’s what Maryland does!”
Baltimore almost seems IndyCar’s street circuit version of a cage match. You have enough evidence now to know that this race is going to be a crash-fest. You know you’ll get some good views of the city and skyline. You know you’ll get a surprise podium – Sam Schmidt’s, Sarah Fisher’s and Jay Penske’s teams finished in the top three spots on Sunday – and that variety is invariably more interesting than yet another Penske-Ganassi podium sweep.
But it’s not like the Penske-Ganassi subplot wasn’t evident either. It was big. It was controversial. It was the rivalry back on the front burner with the latest Scott Dixon-Will Power dust-up. It was probably the biggest talking point coming out of the weekend.
It’s for all those reasons I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Grand Prix of Baltimore. The hate is only for all the contact – if the race could have been just a little cleaner, not had that second Turn 1 pileup and a third one in Turn 3, for instance – I think it would have been an even better race.
But man there’s a lot to love, if you actually make the effort to go. You can tell the effort the ASM team puts into the event. Last year they needed to resuscitate the race from a shoddy first-year promoter, but this year they made some improvements. On the corporate side, adding the “Chicane Suites” at the track’s most notorious corner was a great way to show the partners of the event the most discussed part of the track.
As for the paddock layout, it was much improved this year with a Family Fun Zone – a la its sister event in Milwaukee – put in immediately east of the IndyCar paddock and in the air-conditioned Baltimore Convention Center, was a great thing to attract the next generation of IndyCar fans. Speaking as the youngest full-time member of the IndyCar media corps, I can’t express how pivotal it is to get the younger crowd, especially those who live outside of Indianapolis, interested in IndyCar racing.
A race like Baltimore may not have the cache, the cleanliness or the glory of some of the other events on the calendar. But damn if this isn’t IndyCar’s version of the crazy uncle you can’t wait to see every year just to see what unexpected thing will happen next.
Apr 18, 2014, 8:32 PM EDT
Significant modifications to the Cup cars’ powerplants are likely to come within the next two seasons.
Apr 18, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT
The two Andretti Autosport drivers appear to have put Sunday’s wreck behind them.
Apr 18, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
You can’t say these drivers don’t have a sense of humor.
Apr 18, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT
The second round of the championship in Putrajaya, Malaysia will see drivers contest a short, 1.6-mile street circuit.
Apr 18, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
Two races into his return to open-wheel, the former Indy 500 winner says he’s having a tough time with re-learning tracks.
Apr 18, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
Here’s a look at the grid based on average qualifying positions through 2 races in 2014.
Apr 18, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
IndyCar drivers do their best “hey, this is what this sounds like!” imitations.
Apr 18, 2014, 1:21 PM EDT
Two practice sessions begin a new year for the WEC.
Apr 18, 2014, 12:15 PM EDT
Making the V6s louder might not be such an easy fix.
Apr 18, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
German driver not yet happy with his own performance in China, but his long run pace suggests that a podium finish may be within his reach.
Apr 18, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT
Rookie errors from Lotus driver no big deal, apparently.
Apr 18, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
Mattiacci thought that job offer was a late April Fools joke at first; says that necessary changes will take place.
Apr 18, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT
Spanish driver puts in an impressive display during practice, but warns that rain could scupper Ferrari’s chances of reaching the podium.
Apr 18, 2014, 7:30 AM EDT
Yasuhia Arai reveals some more information about Honda’s decision to return to F1 and the Japanese marque’s plans for the future.
Apr 18, 2014, 6:45 AM EDT
Hamilton keen on the team correcting handling issues before qualifying tomorrow.
Apr 18, 2014, 3:32 AM EDT
Mercedes returns to the top of the timesheets, but Ferrari and Alonso are in close company.
Apr 18, 2014, 1:45 AM EDT
Can Mercedes fight back and resume normal service?
Apr 17, 2014, 11:32 PM EDT
Spanish driver ends Mercedes streak of first place finishes, but teammate Kimi Raikkonen fails to post a time.
Apr 17, 2014, 8:02 PM EDT
You’ve heard of the wildly popular “Evolution of Dance” video on YouTube? Now there’s the Evolution of the Pit Stop.
Apr 17, 2014, 6:58 PM EDT
NBCSN’s Rick Allen and Kyle Petty discuss the expectations for Gene Haas as he looks to start a F1 team. The pair question whether an F1 team can be run successfully out of the United States.
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- Hamilton recovers in FP2 to edge out Alonso and Rosberg 0
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