Baltimore had an amazing 3-day Labor Day weekend with the Inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix. It had everything you could ask for. huge crowds, good food, checkered flag-girls, tons of media, and a whole lot of fast cars.
In the Izod IndyCar series Will Powers won the Baltimore Grand Prix in a stunning victory. He came out early in the race commanding the track over his rivals and won with 10+ second lead. The win wasn't a complete surprise as he lead the pack during practices. Second place runner up was Oriol Servia, who felt his name helped him in the humble city of Baltimore (Oriol translates from Spanish meaning Oriole. Passing Camden Yards must have been good luck!) He came from a 14th place start. Third place runner up was Tony Kanaan, who rallied from a 27th place start and recovered from an interesting accident where he flew over Helio Castroneves during the warmup session.
In the American Le Mans series Guy Smith won the in LMP1 class, Kyle Marcelli in LMPC, Wolf Henzler in GT. An accident where he lost one of his tires during a qualifying lap could not keep Jeroen Bleekemolen from winning in the GTC class. Amazingly he jumped out of his car grabbed the tire put it into his car and drove into the pits to get it installed. Luckily nobody was injured and nor was Jeroen's Porsche 911 GT3 racing car. A great win for Jeroen!
It's clear this was a great event for Baltimore. “We've set the stage to make this a staple event for Baltimore and the region…We had 160,000 fans over the 3 days.” commented Jay Davidson president of Baltimore Racing Development, the private company that oversaw the planning for the Baltimore Grand Prix. “Baltimore has a successful event to build upon for next year and for years to come.” exclaimed Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, The Mayor of Baltimore. Scott Artherton president of the American Le Mans series added, “For a first time event. Honestly it could not have gone better.”
Many drivers commented on how great the weekend went. Will Powers winner of the Baltimore Grand Prix noted, “That was the best podium ceremony of my career!” Other drivers lauded the event as well. “I couldn't believe the incredible number of fans who came out all three days. Street courses are always a good way to draw a good crowd, and the way the circuit was laid out… reminded me of the huge events we've had at places like Surfers Paradise, Long Beach, and Toronto… I know we as drivers loved racing in Baltimore.” said Helio Castroneves on ESPN.com. Tony Kanaan, third place runner up, “It's a beautiful track, bumpy and interesting.” Oriol Servia “This track is a challenge for both drivers and engineers… I think it is fun.” Scott Artherton on all the positive feedback from drivers, “Race car drivers are the first ones to offer up an opinion. Normally it is not constructive and normally it is not good.”
Fans were extremely pleased with the event as well. “It's awesome. I go to a lot of these races, Long Beach, St Petersburg, Indianapolis. Top-notch street course for sure!” said Peter Romero, an Albuquerque Lawyer and immense race fan. “This could be the second crown jewel in the IndyCar circuit…This venue is nicer than Long Beach. It's crazy! It's a perfect storm for a street course.” referring to all the hotels and accommodations located around the track. Many other fans and spectators were equally pleased and enthusiastic about the weekend.
Even with all the delays on getting the track open on Friday for practices, issues seemed to get resolved for the rest of the weekend. “It's part of the growing pains of dealing with a new track and new race.” said an Andretti Autosport team member whom I spoke with about the delays. The general confusion among the staff seemed to be resolved as the weekend went on as well. Everything was smoothed out by Sunday.
This was the first big racing event for the Mid-Atlantic region since Washington DC had a Grand Prix race in 2002. IndyCar and American Le Mans feel this is a market that needed to be tapped and judging from the crowds, they could not have been more right. It was truly amazing the sheer number of people all weekend.. The energy was sky-high everywhere. The event was blessed with great weather, as it came after Hurricane Irene and before an immense amount of rain in Baltimore the following week. The fans, drivers, media, and policy makers of Baltimore have spoken and many hope racing will be here for a long time to come.