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.

How IndyCar rookie Sting Ray Robb got that name (and some more of his backstory)

IndyCar Sting Ray Robb
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Every NTT IndyCar Series season brings a new round of getting to know the rookies, and it’s fairly obvious where the story starts with Sting Ray Robb.

Just for clarification, “Robb” is the last name. His given name indeed is “String Ray” on the birth certificate.

Why, yes, he does come from performance-car parentage.

And yes, the IndyCar rookie named “Sting Ray” will be driving the No. 51 Dallara-Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware.

How did that go over with a mom and dad who clearly prefer American automotive brands?

“That’s a tricky question,” Robb said with a laugh Tuesday during the IndyCar Preseason Content Days. “Yeah, my parents are big Corvette fans, and I think that they ruled out criticizing me too badly because they know the dream is IndyCar.”

“I’ll be in a Honda car and I’m assuming it’ll go pretty quick, so I’m OK with all of that.”

“They’re not going to rename you ‘NSX’ or something?” asked Motorsport.com’s David Malsher-Lopez (whose bitingly sardonic wit is regularly heard in IndyCar media centers).

“No. I hope not,” Robb said. “My name is my name. I don’t need a rename, thank you.”

Robb, 21, has been making a name for himself lately, finishing second in last year’s Indy NXT standings with 11 top-five finishes, eight podiums and two pole positions.

But the Payette, Idaho, native also has an intriguing backstory beyond his successful four years in the Road to Indy ladder system (that also included the 2020 Indy Pro title).

He hails from the same small town (northwest of Boise on the Oregon border) that produced Minnesota Twins slugger and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew.

Robb, whose graduating class was less than 100, recently found that Wikipedia listed him and Killebrew as the “notable alumni” from Payette High School.

“It’s nice to be see and appreciate all the things that I’ve learned and been through,” said Robb, who also played some baseball in his day, adding that “I’m more of a consistent singles hitter, slap hitter if you want to call it. No home runs, just doubles or triples here and there.”

Some other facts on the newest memorable name of IndyCar:

–He’s managed by Pieter Rossi (father of Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indy 500 winner), but he also gets a lot of help from his mother, Kimmie.

“We call her my ‘momager’ because she’s my mom and my manager,” Robb said. “She has been a huge role in my career because she does things that I’m unable to do as a driver.

“She’s able to play hardball with the contracts, etc., and have my best interest in mind when it comes to negotiating, along with Pieter. He may be someone that has a lot of experience in the series with Alexander, but he may not know what’s best for me. It’s good to have them both on my side, and I can learn a lot from them.”

–His family have been lifelong supporters since go-karting. “It was my mom, my dad, my grandparents on the road every weekend,” he said. “My dad has missed one race in my entire life, and it was because he was in the hospital. So we let him have a pass, and he was still on the phone every 30 minutes making sure that tire pressure was right, engine temp was right, we had the right gear on the car, etc.”

–Robb graduated high school a year early to focus on racing after being home-schooled as a child. “I went to someone’s house actually, and she taught me from the time I was in pre-K through sixth grade,” Robb said. “So in seventh grade I started going to public school, and I hate to say it, but I feel like I stopped learning after that point. But it was OK. I got some social skills, lucky for you guys.”

–He also has a wild story about how he landed his current ride during a random encounter in a trip to the gym (which you can read about here).