Brakes get put on Baltimore Grand Prix due to Scheduling Conflict

Article originally published on CarNewsCafe

The brakes, so to speak, for the Baltimore Grand Prix have just been slammed hard.  It was announced by Race On, the company behind the Baltimore Grand Prix’s organizing and scheduling, that the street race will not be coming back to Baltimore for Labor Day Weekend in 2014 and 2015.

Why was the Baltimore Grand Prix cancelled?

This is due to a scheduling conflict with an Ohio-Navy football game taking place at M&T Bank stadium next year and the following year there will be an American Legion convention on Labor Day weekend.  Race organizers tried to broker a deal that would work for all parties but it seemed that no compromises or agreements were able to be made.  Alternatives dates were considered but nothing worked for the Orioles or other conventions that were happening during August in Baltimore.  This includes the Firehouse Expo and Otakon, a convention for Anime and Manga fans, that takes place in August at the Baltimore Convention Center.  Asking any convention or conference to radically alter their schedule would have been in bad taste for city tourism officials.

How do people feel?

City officials and Baltimore’s Mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, are putting a positive spin on the cancellation for the next 2 years.  They believe the Baltimore Grand Prix has showcased the city to the country and world in a positive light and hopes it increases tourism.  (They forgot that “Homicide” and “The Wire” are what the Charm City is best known for though.)

Some residents are quite disappointed with the news of the cancellation and especially race fans.  In addition many drivers and people involved with racing events for the Baltimore Grand Prix seemed to love Baltimore as a street race location.  Many think Baltimore was a better city to hold a street race than the Long Beach Grand Prix, widely considered the crown jewel of the IndyCar and American Le Mans circuit.

Of course there are also residents of the city felt the Baltimore Grand Prix was an inconvenience for those that lived and work in Downtown Baltimore though as it disrupts traffic and makes it difficult to get around town when the the track is being setup and the race is taking place.  (It really is in case you are wondering.)  Also many business owners felt the race keeps away locals who would normally visit downtown businesses on Labor Day weekend and they didn’t receive much foot traffic from race attendees.

What does the future of the Baltimore Grand Prix look like?

Hard to say but as of I write this IndyCar and American Le Mans, the two racing series that take part in the Baltimore Grand Prix, have not announced another Mid-Atlantic city where they will be holding a street race.  It is likely though they will try to work out a deal with another city within the region for 2014 and 2015 since each series needs to keep attendance and interest in the sport up.  Racing spectators and fans have been dwindling over the past few years and it’s imperative to hold street races to generate interest.

Overall it seemed race promoters and organizers were really happy with Baltimore as a stop on the circuit tour.  It is also possible it will come since let’s not forget that the Baltimore Grand Prix is a street race with “9 Lives.”  After the Inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix 3 years ago the was largely hailed as a success by city leaders and race promoters but it turned out that the company that organized and put on the race, Baltimore Racing Development, was bankrupt and couldn’t pay vendors and the city of Baltimore fees it was owed.  To this day though it is unclear if Jay Davidson, who ran Baltimore Racing Development, got screwed by the city and not the other way around.  I imagine that is the case since politics are as dirty and corrupt as you can get here.  However, Davidson and BRD did hire ‘consultants’ which didn’t do anything for the race.

After Baltimore Racing Development lost the contract to run and organize the Baltimore Grand Prix the city let another company step in.  The company, DownForce Racing, was run by Felix J. Dawson, Daniel Reck, and Dale Dillon.  This looked promising as Dillon was an Indianapolis based commercial contractor that was heavily involved in racing and helped get the Baltimore Grand Prix on track for the first year.  However, Downforce Racing failed to make certain obligations and give reports to the city that it was expecting at certain deadlines.  Therefore the city decided to drop their contract with only a few months to go.   That is when Andretti Sports Marketing along with Michael Andretti, son of legendary race car legend Mario Andretti, would take over organizing the race in 2012 with only 3 months to go.  Micheal Andretti even claimed that the street race in Baltimore could be “The premier street event in the world” which seemed like a lofty claim in my opinion.  Surprisingly Andretti Sports Marketing and Race On put on the Baltimore Grand Prix in 2012 with a limited timeframe and it was successful.

Final Thoughts about the Baltimore Grand Prix

The first year the Baltimore Grand Prix there were 160,000 attendees, but only 110,000 paid for tickets apparently.  The past 2 years didn’t meet those numbers though.  Also the city has shelled out $7+ million on road improvements to make the Baltimore Grand Prix a reality and over $2 million around Camden Yards, the Baltimore Orioles stadium, which doesn’t include the money the city needed to shell-out for support services for the race.  Such as overtime paid for police and firefighters that needed to be present during the race.

The claim from city officials and race promoters was that the economic impact for Baltimore was $130+ million in total for the 3 years but it is unclear how much the city truly got back in taxes and how much business was lost during the 2 weeks it takes to setup the track.  The Baltimore Grand Prix still hasn’t made money and it would take many years for the street race to do so.  It is arguable whether Baltimore, a poor city, could front that type of money for so many years without seeing a return on it’s investment.  Also due to the corrupt political climate it’s pretty clear money is getting pushed around to unsavory people.

Leave your Thoughts

What do you think of scheduling situation with the Baltimore Grand Prix?  Should city tourism officials have been more aggressive in pushing for another convention to move out of town?  Should American Le Mans and IndyCar honchos have been more firm as well? If you are a racing fan, resident or business owner in Baltimore, or were part of the Baltimore Grand Prix the CarNewsCafe team would love to hear your thoughts about it.

Andretti Claims the Baltimore Grand Prix could be “The premier street event in the world”

Baltimore Grand Prix

Baltimore city’s Board of Estimates last week officially confirmed that Michael Andretti and Andretti Sports Marketing along with Race On will be organizing the 2012 Baltimore Grand Prix, making many IndyCar and American Le Mans racing fans happy.

In a press event that officially made Mr. Andretti and his company the organizers of the 2012 Baltimore Grand Prix, which takes place on the streets of Baltimore, he commented that the race has the potential to be the “premier street event in the world.” Whether the Labor Day weekend race will actually live up to that expectation will require a lot of planning on Andretti’s part.

According to the Baltimore Business Journal Andretti Sports Marketing is trying to pull this race together as quickly as possible with only a few months to go. Tickets are set to go on sale in a week on May 28th, 2012. They will be available on Ticketmaster and a new website the company has setup to sell tickets and provide information about the event.

They have also taken steps to setup a Facebook page and Twitter feed to keep fans informed and connected with the 2012 Baltimore Grand Prix.

The previous organizers of the Baltimore Grand Prix, Downforce Racing, did not even manage to sell tickets or find vendors to put up seating. The company that put on the race in 2011, Baltimore Racing Development, went bankrupt and was not able to pay the city and state taxes and fees. So both racing companies contracts were canceled for these reasons.

This left the door open for Andretti and Race On to step in. Race on is a local company that is partnering with Andretti Sports Marketing to run the race. The people involved with Race on are Gregory O’Neil and JP grant, who plan to operate the race for the next five years. (That is if Race On and Andretti Sports Marketing successfully puts on the 2012 Baltimore Grand Prix.)

“This is a world class city,” said Grant when talking about Baltimore. “It deserves a world class event.”

Grant firmly believes that the 160,000 people who spurred $47 million in economic spending far outweighed the city not making any money on the massive event last year. The city seems to feel the same way if they are prepared to sign a new contract and deal with the immense headaches of putting on a major street race again.

Other tasks that Andretti hopes to accomplish include finding a title sponsor for this year’s race. Mr. Andretti is hopeful but not 100% certain they will able to locate and find a title sponsor this year, bu for 2013 they are very confident a title sponsorship is possible.

It seems the “Race is On” for Andretti Sports Marketing and Race On to get the race ready in time.

Adam’s Auto Advice Turns 2 Years-Old Today Along With This 200th Post!

Me and My Dog Cody!

I thought I would share an important milestone with all the fans and readers of my humble blog, Adam’s Auto Advice. This blog is now 2 years-old as of today.  Happy Birthday… to myself I guess! 🙂

It’s amazing to think that my blog is 2 years old! Honestly it feels like I have been blogging and writing about cars forever, but it really has not been that long.

I look back at all the amazing posts and articles I have written. The articles and posts range from the fun and whacky Charm City Pedal Mill, the interesting Baltimore start-up ParkingPanda, attending the Baltimore Grand Prix, and breaking news about RelayRides. I have even tested automotive products and gone to a few car and auto shows.

Probably the best thing I have written about on this blog was my road trip from Irvine, CA to back to Baltimore.  It was an amazing trip and I hope to do many more road trips and a cross-country road trip again soon.

You know, I started this blog and didn’t have set high hopes for my writing but look at me now! I am a full time auto journalist and blogger. I was able to go from writing as a hobby to writing about cars professionally.

Looking back at my first post, and some of my early writing such as this Top Gear editorial my writing has come a long way and fast. I am fortunate to be able to be doing something creative and love what I am doing.

I feel proud of everything I have been accomplished with this blog and other writing I have done.

As well sharing my experience when I appeared on Anderson with Anderson Cooper for the TV show’s New Year’s Special. I performed “Auld Lange Syne” with my singing dogs, Cody and Sierra, which was an amazing experience which I shared on this blog. (Of course it had nothing to do with cars, but I did drive up to New York-City with my dogs.)

I am glad to have had all these interesting and varied experiences. I hope to share more auto news, advice, tips & tricks, product reviews, with everyone via Adam’s Auto Advice. I know I will continue to grow and experience more amazing automotive experiences in the future.

I also appreciate all the people with a shared passion for cars I have meet along my journey. We have exchanged web advice, writing tips, and personal stories of “Auto Awesomeness!”

Someone who deserves credit for my blog is my brother Jason. He helped me get this blog up and running and switch from Blogger to WordPress. He’s also helped keep this blog going and updated. Thanks Jason!

I certainly have not crossed everything off on my automotive bucket list. I know I have a lot more great experiences ahead of me.

This is actually my 200th post! I didn’t plan that, but it is a happy coincidence.  There will be hundreds of more great articles and posts along the way. I am going to make an effort to post more and most likely shorter articles in the future.

I hope all of you continue to follow my writing and work. Please Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest to keep updated.

I look forwarding to writing about cars and on this blog for many more years.

I visisted the MVA Today

$266.40 for a Title, Registration, & 2 Tags!

You might think an auto writer/blogger would be able to find some way around the terrible experience of going to the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA).  Unfortunately this is not the case.  I had to go to an MVA office today to get new Tags & a Title for my Honda Accord.  Here is the story of my experience.

I went late in the day, probably around 3pm.  Always a bad idea.  It is a better idea to go earlier in the day.  This is when people are just trying to make it afterwork or taking off early to go to the MVA.  Instead of going to Mondawmin Mall, where the Baltimore City MVA office was, I went to the new Hilltop Shopping Center office on Reisterstown Rd.  Apparently the Mondawmin office closed in May and they moved to the Hilltop location.

I waited in line for the information desk for about 20-30 minutes.  What I found strange is when I got up to the desk I told the lady, “I need to register my car and get Tags.”  I handed her the California title and inspection certificate, she took both and looked at the title like it was some weird document.  Without saying anything she went over and starting talking with the supervisor for 5 minutes.  I was thinking, “Really?  They don’t see out-of-state titles?”  She came back to the desk and just said, “Fillout the information on the back as well.”

I took my ticket and sat down in the waiting area.  I started filling out the Title form and making sure I had everything set.  I realized I needed to go get the mileage from my car.  I thought I might not have time to do this… then I realized I was at the MVA.  There was plenty of time!

When I came back in from getting the mileage out of the car, I looked around at all the people in the MVA.  It didn’t matter age, race, gender, whatever because everyone has the same exact look at the MVA!  “I just want to get out of here!”  Why won’t this line move?”  “Why is it taking so long?”

Luckily I brought a book ‘Real Money’ by Jim Cramer, but it is hard to read in there.  There is the automated voice that goes off every 20 seconds “Now serving C45 at number 12.”  After another 30+ minutes I finally got my number called.  You feel like jumping and up down when that happens.

I handed the lady my title, form, and bill of sale.  She was pretty helpful and nice.  She commented about my car, “Wow!  The mileage on this is really good!”  I told her the story of how I drove it across the country and that it was my Grandma’s car.  “Oh so she just used it to drive to Church and the Grocery store?”  I replied “Yeah, pretty much!”  She told me her Grandma had a Mercedes that had very few miles on it too.  When I got out my credit card to pay I gave her my business card and said I was an auto journalist.  We talked about that for awhile and I told her about how I got a media pass to the Baltimore Grand Prix.  She seemed enthusiast about it and asked me some questions.

So I spent about 2 hours getting to the MVA office, waiting, waiting some more, and actually doing what I needed to do, before getting back to my house.  It cost $266.40 to register, get a title, and for 2 MD license plates.  Since I was smart enough to get a bill of sale stating the car was bought for $0 and therefore a gift, I was not charged 6% sales tax.  It would have more expensive if I did not have that.  Of course I still spent too much time there!

Interview with Nick Miller Co-Founder & CEO of ParkingPanda – Part 1

Here is an interview I did with Nick Miller, Co-Founder and CEO of ParkingPanda.com on October 4th, 2011.  This will give you an inside perspective on an internet startup and what it takes to get it started.  This is Part 1 of the interview, stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3.  I thought it would make it easier to read and be more fun to post the interview in parts.  If you haven’t already check out my article on ParkingPanda.

Nick Miller, Co-Founder & CEO

Nick Miller: We just got back from NY, we were in a tech accelerator up there. Now we are located right down the street here. (Canton in Starbucks).

Adam: Cool. How many employees do you have?

NM: It’s just the two of us now. Two of us run it full time, myself and Adam [Zilberbaum]. We have contract help that is helping us and an intern that is helping us as well.

A: What was the flash of genius? Where did the idea come from?

NM: I have sort of experienced both sides of the problem. I went to Georgetown. When I was living in DC I actually at one point had a townhouse with a driveway.  So I was sitting there with an empty driveway and I wasn’t doing anything with it. After I had moved out I was up here [Baltimore] at a Raven’s game and there was a guy standing there with a cardboard sign, “Park Here $15 bucks” over at Federal Hill, way cheaper and way faster to do that, so I parked in the driveway. Having experienced both sides of the inefficiencies of parking, “There has got to be a better way to do exactly this!” Why can’t I just put this guy’s driveway online, and not drive around and hand this guy some cash! So it was actually having experienced both sides of it. It made it apparent this needed to be done.

A: Yeah I actually live right near the Hopkins campus, pretty close to the stadium. People park all up and down our street. A few years ago I actually kind of had the same idea. You should be able to just put this online or something. Hey, we do have spaces here!

NM: Once in awhile sometimes people post on Craigslist and it is so inefficient. You gotta sit around your house waiting for the guy to come with $10 dollars, so is it really worth it?  [With ParkingPanda] People don’t even have to be there, you can set it up once and never do anything again.

A: What is your main market for the website? Who is using it?

NM: We are starting out targeting people going to events. Ravens football games.  We launched at the Grand Prix here in Baltimore. That was our first big event. Just because the demand around events is larger. It is really apparent really big. People see the value immediately around events. Ultimately we want to grow it away from events to people going to dinner in the city, or going shopping, and also long term for commuters as well. If you are gone from your space everyday, you’re right by Hopkins, from work and you know there is an Hopkins employee that could pay you $50 or $75 a month instead $150 for a garage. They could just come rent the same space everyday.

A: Really ultimately anytime you need parking in a high-density area, this should be an option?

NM: Not that everyone is going to use it as opposed to a garage, but it should be an option. Hopefully a lower cost more efficient option.

A: So I am renting out my space and let’s say I need it. How do you work out those types of issues?

NM: So there is a really easy calendar on the site. You can actually set when it’s available and the amount of time. So if you know you are gone every Tuesday and it’s free, you can make it available every Tuesday. You are home every Wednesday and Thursday you don’t have to make it available. If you want to set it, as long as nobody has booked, you can change it at any point in time. You are going out of town for a month, you can make it available for a whole month or if you are sick and going to be home for the whole week you can take it off the market.

A: Is it a Google Calendar?

NM: We have our own calendar built in. Basically you can click or drag over dates. You can set when it’s available and when it is not. It is one of the reasons we started off launching around events around daily parking, you rent it for the whole day. Basically what you need for the event, even if you are not there for the whole day. We reduce a lot of the complexities around “I get home around 5, what if someone is still in my driveway at 5:15?” Obviously we can deal with that, but it creates more and more complexities the more you do that. So we are starting off with dailies, but we will do monthly and hourly as well.

A: How many people are on the site currently?

NM: The first weekend at the Grand Prix we booked about 117 spaces over the course of the weekend. I think it was 117, it was just over 115. Now what we have been focusing on is we want to have a large inventory of spaces before we have tons of people who try to book spaces. If they come to book spaces and they aren’t any there, it’s useless! So we have close to 40 spaces in our inventory now. In any given time, not all those are available. In the middle of the week on Tuesday, you might only have 4-5. On a game day, for a Ravens Game, there will probably be 20. Some people list once a month, some people list their spaces every day. It really varies. We are really focused on filling up our inventory more and more. Once we have 100 spaces in our inventory, every day there will be a lot of value in different neighborhoods and different parts of the city.  Once we have that inventory it will be useful.

A: Do you see expanding to parking buses, rvs, or other vehicles?

NM: We think that the community model is lot more compelling than a lot of the other models. We have talked to parking garages before and ultimately we may do some work with parking garages and help people make relations with parking garages, but really that takes care of the issue of whether parking is available before you leave home. It doesn’t help you avoid the traffic of the garage and it doesn’t necessarily save you as much money. Plus you are not helping out your community making a little extra money as well. From a parking space owners side, in a bad economy it’s a little more. Why not make a little extra cash?

A: Do you have a expected growth rate? Currently you are just in Baltimore, right? You want to move into other cities?

NM: We will be in DC soon. DC is the next city. We will probably roll out to DC in 2 months or less. In Baltimore we launched first we only have a certain number of inventory. In DC we won’t launch until we have say 50 parking spaces there. That way as soon as we go live, we will launch around an event down there, as soon as we go live there will already by a lot inventory and spaces. We are already building the inventory in DC, so that when we go live there will be a lot of parking space available. After DC we will go to Philadelphia. We will focus on those close markets first, because it is a great way optimize what works, what doesn’t. We can refine what we are doing. Once we really have if figured out in Baltimore, DC, and Philly. Then we will expand more Boston, Chicago, San Francisco. Start moving North, start moving West. Baltimore and DC and great markets. We really want to figure out that best way to do it and it’s a great place to figure that out.

 

Click here for Part 2 and Part 3 of the interview

 

ParkingPanda strives to Revolutionize parking

The Panda!

A recent Baltimore-based start-up called ParkingPanda.com, run by Nick Miller and Adam Zilberbaum, has definitely piqued my interest. Why? Because they aim to revolutionize parking as we know it.

The idea is simple. You need a space in Downtown Baltimore, say for a Ravens or Orioles game. You don’t want to spend 30+ minutes driving around aimlessly looking for parking. So you log onto ParkingPanda and find someone who might have a parking space downtown, but is away for a few days or just might not need it. They rent out their parking space to you, for less than what it would cost to park in a garage. That person makes a little cash on a personal parking space they otherwise would have not been using and you get to find parking quickly and cheaply! It’s great for all parties involved!

Nick Miller is the Co-Founder and CEO of ParkingPanda. Like most great internet ideas, the company was conceived during his college days in our nation’s capitol, “I went to Georgetown.  I was living in DC and I didn’t really need a car. So I was sitting there with an empty driveway and I wasn’t doing anything with it.”  Then he had the challenging experience of trying to find parking. “After I had moved out I was up here [Baltimore] at a Raven’s game and there was a guy standing there with a cardboard sign that was like, “Park Here $15 bucks” over at Federal Hill, way cheaper and way faster to do that, so I parked in the driveway.” This got Nick thinking, “Why can’t I just put this guy’s driveway online, and not drive around and hand this guy some cash! So it was actually having experienced both sides of it. It made it apparent this needed to be done.”

This led Nick to take part in Startup Weekend Baltimore, an intense 54-hour technology competition where teams build a website or application over the course of a weekend. Nick met Adam [Zilberbaum] and told him about his wild idea for a peer-to-peer online parking community. The two hit it off and spent the weekend developing the idea. Needless to say, ParkingPanda won the competition! For winning they received the necessary funds to incorporate ParkingPanda. Once incorporated, the company got additional money which led into marketing and building up the website.

Then the dynamic duo spent the summer in a tech accelerator in New York City.  This gave them three months of office space in Times Square and the chance to make connections with well-known entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.  They also got $25,000 in seed money. The culmination of the tech accelerator was giving a pitch to all the companies involved, and to potential investors.

The company launched at the Inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix. “The first weekend at the Grand Prix we booked about 117 spaces over the course of the weekend.” says Nick. Not bad for a first weekend.

Currently ParkingPanda operates exclusively in Baltimore, but they hope to expand. “We will be in DC soon,” Nick says, “We will probably roll out to DC in 2 months or less.” ParkingPanda has big aspirations for getting into other cities and markets as well. “After DC we will go to Philadelphia, Then we will expand more: Boston, Chicago, San Francisco.”

Even with big aspirations and hopes, the duo want to get the formula right. “We will focus on close markets first [Baltimore, DC, and Philly], because it is a great way to optimize what works, what doesn’t. We can refine what we are doing.” says Nick.

Nick Miller, Co-Founder & CEO

During my conversation with Nick, we drew comparisons to Airbnb, a website where you can rent out rooms from people, Couchsurfing a similar service but free, and RelayRides a website that enables you to rent a neighbor’s car. “People really see the value of earning a little extra cash with their assets and with helping out the community in general. If people are willing to let you share their car, I feel like there are people who are certainly willing to let you use their driveway. You have to be confident in letting someone get behind the wheel of your car, but your driveway… there is a pretty low barrier to entry there.” says Nick.

We also discussed other parking websites, which enable you to reserve spaces in a garage or parking lot in advance.  Nick pointed out the advantages of ParkingPanda. “They offer you the ability to reserve a space and know exactly where you are going. We also offer the ability to save you money and to avoid the traffic associated with the garage or the parking lot, and the idea is it is peer-to-peer so you are supporting your community. Someone can be renting your driveway when you are renting someone else’s.”

ParkingPanda is such an intriguing idea, I actually signed up to use the website. In the future I will definitely look for parking through the Panda! I might even list my parking space during Hopkins lacrosse games, due to limited parking in the area when games occur. I see people driving up and down our street looking for parking all the time. You can find free street parking but as Nick points out, “You risk getting towed or ticketed. Particularly if you don’t know the law.” The advantage to using a service like ParkingPanda, is that you don’t need to worry about that.

Nick lays out ParkingPanda like this, “You can sit down with someone and in two minutes they know what we are doing. It is not some crazy ad-technology, where two months later they are like, What are you talking about? How does it work? This is a community marketplace for parking. We want people to share their parking spaces with one another. It’s straightforward!”

Want to know more about ParkingPanda?  Read my interview with Nick Miller, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Watch it in Wet Weather!

I am sure everyone in the Baltimore area and Maryland experienced the rather quick switch in weather from sunshine, to heavy rain, some sunshine, light rain, sunshine, heavy rain!  It was a little bit ridiculous.  It’s a good reminder to be prepared for anything when driving and to stay alert.  You need to be constantly aware of the driving conditions you are dealing with, espicially in wet weather.

A few weeks ago when I was headed to the Baltimore Grand Prix Economic Press Conference, it was raining like nobody’s business!  Not far from my house these was this accident.  It was pretty serious as you can see from the pictures.  These two small SUVS did a lot of damage hitting each other, at what I assumed was relatively low speeds.  This was most likely due to the fact that one of the drivers did not adjust their driving for wet conditions.  Since they were relatively the same size and type of vehicle, it seemed nobody was seriously injued. (Actually both were Honda CRVs).  Consider if one of the vehicles was a truck hitting a compact car.  Not good!