Baltimore Grand Prix, IndyCar Officials Hope To Repeat Labor Day Weekend Event For '12
The inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix took place on Sunday and event organizers, IndyCar execs and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake are “already looking ahead to next year,” according Don Markus of the Baltimore SUN. All were “in agreement about how well a holiday weekend worked.” The crowds, estimated by organizers “at well over 100,000 for the three-day event, seemed to back that up,” as well as the “effusive comments of the drivers, who said the combination of the challenging course and enthusiastic fans made it as attractive a site as there is on the series.” Driver Tony Kanaan said, "I've never been to a place for the first time that was this crowded and the fans were passionate." Baltimore Racing Development President Jay Davidson said that he is “hopeful” of getting the same date for next summer. Davidson would have to have IndyCar officials agree, and said that he would “have to talk with the Orioles and Major League Baseball ‘to make that happen’ for as long as the event remained on the schedule.” He added that he is also “optimistic of securing a title sponsor for next year.” IndyCar Series Commercial Division President Terry Angstadt on Sunday said that he “hoped to talk with Rawlings-Blake and other city officials in the next few days about solidifying the Labor Day weekend date, though a formal announcement would not likely take place until later this year.” Markus noted it is not clear “what kind of economic impact the event had in the region,” but Grand Prix spokesperson Edie Brown said that it “would be among several topics discussed at a news conference scheduled for Thursday” (Baltimore SUN, 9/6). Rawlings-Blake said, “For next year, we’ll definitely have more entrances as well as a sense of traffic monitoring and having contingency plans.” She added that the event preparations “came in under budget.” IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard “came away impressed.” He said, “This is what the sport needed” (USA TODAY, 9/6).
CROWD NUMBERS: Baltimore Grand Prix GM Dale Dillon “estimated the weekend crowd at 150,000 to 160,000 over three days.” The Baltimore Police Department estimated that “15,000 attended Friday and 40,000 Saturday, but did not offer an estimate for Sunday.” But race organizers have said that police “low-balled crowd counts for the first two days” (Baltimore SUN, 9/6). In Baltimore, Kevin Cowherd wrote that “judged as a big-time sports event alone, one that attracted hard-core race fans and folks who wouldn't know Will Power from Austin Powers, the Grand Prix was a huge hit.” Depending on “whom you talked to, between 100,000 and 120,000 spectators showed up for three days of street racing that showed off the Inner Harbor in a spectacular light.” Attendance was “strong all three days.” Race officials said that “most of the 27,000 grandstand seats were sold.” All 84 private suites were sold and “walk-up tickets sales Saturday were said to be phenomenal.” Sunday was “so busy that walk-up tickets were gone early.” Cowherd: “Baltimore could be proud of this race. Very proud” (Baltimore SUN, 9/5). Team Owner Roger Penske: "I was amazed at the turnout. To see huge crowds like that on a Friday and a Saturday shows this event has great potential" (Baltimore SUN, 9/5).
ON THE UPSWING: ESPN's John Oreovicz wrote the race showed there is "still hope for rebuilding Indy car racing in to a mainstream sport again after more than a decade of it slipping into niche sport status." The Baltimore Grand Prix "already has jumped to No. 2 on IndyCar's road racing hit parade, right behind the venerable 37-year-old Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach." Crowds "filled the 32,000 grandstand seats and they lined the fences" bordering the track. Oreovicz: "They stood 15 deep outside Danica Patrick's team transporter patiently waiting for pictures and autographs. And you got the feeling that they will all be back for next year's Baltimore Grand Prix. Even without Danica on the grid" (ESPN.com, 9/4). In Toronto, Norris McDonald noted it was “a fabulous crowd and a fabulous first event.” Organizers “have some work to do on the design of the circuit but other than that, it was a dynamite spectacle” (TORONTO STAR, 9/6). In N.Y., Mike Ranier noted event officials still have "some issues to resolve on and off the track,” as road repairs “continued into Thursday night, just hours before the first round of warm-ups and qualifiers.” There were also “logistical issues at the entrance gates.” As the main event approached on Sunday afternoon, lines to enter the fan village “stretched for more than a block at some gates.” Most spectators “were well behaved, though there were a handful of fights on crowded pedestrian walkways” (N.Y. TIMES, 9/5).
NO TAKERS FOR VEGAS RACE: IndyCar did not have a driver outside of the series take up the offer of entering the season-ending race at Las Vegas with a $5M prize if they won the race. Versus’ Robin Miller said NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne “definitely wanted to do it, but he wanted to do it for Roger Penske, and that couldn’t happen.” IndyCar did have Travis Pastrana signed up, but he then “broke his foot” during the X Games. Miller: “The most important thing is, when you see somebody like a Kasey Kahne or a Travis Pastrana -- yeah, they’re out of their element, but Kasey Kahne is a big name. And that’s what Randy wanted. He wanted some people that were going to move the needle. That’s the most important thing -- why do it unless you can get some big starts that aren’t in their element that have a big fan base?” Versus’ Kevin Lee: “It was still worth it though, all the free publicity. At least Las Vegas knows now that IndyCar is coming” (“Baltimore Grand Prix,” Versus, 9/4). Team Owners Penske and Chip Ganassi on Sunday said that they “never gave serious consideration to fielding all-star drivers” in the Las Vegas race. However, there “still could be an eye-catching aspect of the event,” and Bernard “hinted about a surprise” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 9/4).