What does the future hold for Grand Prix of Baltimore?

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From my perspective, the Grand Prix of Baltimore has become a destination stop on the IZOD IndyCar Series calendar. The downtown and waterfront settings make for beautiful visuals, while the two-mile street circuit itself creates lively racing.

If only it hadn’t made such a bad first impression. Of course, I’m talking about the substantial amounts of money that were lost on the race’s inaugural running in 2011.

The past financial debacle has created a reputation that the event must overcome in order to have a long-term future. Race On Baltimore and Andretti Sports Marketing have worked hard to stabilize it (and make sure the bills are actually paid), but as noted by the Baltimore Sun, this third go-round will be a very important one.

There’s always seemed to be a substantial group of people that have been opposed to racing in Baltimore. Some of their complaints are typical, such as noise and road closings.

Then there are others who put forth the valid question of why so much emphasis is being put on a street race when Baltimore is grappling with other issues such as crime and urban blight.

When I lived near and worked in Baltimore for a short time after I graduated from college, I was constantly reminded by the nightly news of how tough that city can be.

And that is why I’m hoping the Grand Prix can continue on in the years ahead. Maybe I’m being too idealistic, but who’s to say the race can’t help burnish the city’s image in the eyes of the world? Who’s to say it can’t play a positive role in its future?

Baltimore has a lot going for it, and not just sports-wise. It has a lively arts scene, lots of leafy neighborhoods, and is well-known in health and science circles for its world-class hospitals.

And for the last three years, it’s been home to what has been a highly entertaining motorsports event.

A Labor Day racing festival obviously can’t solve all of the city’s problems, which are quite formidable. But I would think that the Grand Prix can serve to help raise its standing, just like the art festivals and the Inner Harbor and the Ravens and O’s do.

It’s understandable why the race hasn’t achieved widespread praise yet. However, in my opinion, any event that does its best to bring in money and provide a form of unique entertainment for the public shouldn’t be looked at as a source of complete negativity, either.

Time will tell if Baltimore will stay a racing town. I’m hoping it does.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. believes Indy 500 should never have guaranteed starting positions

Bruce Martin Photo
Bruce Martin Photo
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INDIANAPOLIS – Like many viewers watching last weekend’s Indianapolis 500 “Bump Day” on NBC, former NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was captivated by the drama.

He also believes INDYCAR should not follow NASCAR’s path of “Chartered Teams” locking up positions in the major races; such as the Daytona 500. That has taken away the excitement and drama of the Daytona Duels.

“Not trying to get myself in the weeds here, but I think Indy could look at the history of NASCAR and how it has changed the excitement for some of the Duels and qualifying,” Earnhardt told NBC Sports.com. “I would not go in that direction. If I was in control of things, I would not pull those levers to have guaranteed spots. The thrill of Bump Day and the battle for the final row, increased the value of Sunday and viewership for Sunday. It taught people about other drivers and teams. We don’t learn those things if you don’t see them going through that battle and experience.

“I thought it was a tremendous win for the people that want to keep things at Indy as they are.”

Earnhardt, who is part of NBC’s crew for Sunday’s telecast of the 103rdIndianapolis 500, believes the way it all played out created a storyline that enhances the interest in the 500-Mile Race.

“I experienced the drama before with Bump Day that has happened here in this race in the past, but I thought it was symbolic with the conversation going on about guaranteed spots,” Earnhardt said. “For the folks who are the traditionalists who believe you have to earn your way in, it was a great day for those folks and their argument. Fernando Alonso and how that story played out and his reaction to not making it, I thought he handled it like the champion he is. All of that was interesting.

“The little teams beating the big teams was pretty cool. It created some really exciting stuff and did nothing but build excitement in the race.

“Even though Alonso is not in the race, I’m just as interested, or more interested, than I was before. Them not being in the race didn’t change it for me. If anything, that whole drama and how it played out made me more excited to see the event.”

Earnhardt is attending his first Indianapolis 500 in person. He will be part of NBC’s Indianapolis 500 Pre-race show along with Mike Tirico and 2005 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Danica Patrick.

Earnhardt will also drive the Pace Car to lead the 33-car starting lineup to the green flag to start the 103rdIndianapolis 500. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 12:45 p.m. Eastern Time.