The 2011 Baltimore Grand Prix Labor Day weekend looked like a success. Every driver I spoke to, from the race winner Will Power to Graham Rahal, all loved the street course. A crowd of nearly 160,000 packed the streets of Charm City to watch the three days of racing.
From a television standpoint, the race course weaving along Baltimore's beautiful Inner Harbor and through the city provided viewers stunning pictures of Baltimore. Having an IndyCar race within easy driving distance of Washington and New York made the event a success on the surface.
But as often happens, what fans don't see is the cost and behind-the-scenes workings of the promoter and the city leaders that in the end decide if the race was a true success. So on that very important point, the 2011 Baltimore Grand Prix was a disaster.
Here we are now just a little over five months from the 2012 edition of the Baltimore Grand Prix set for Labor Day Weekend, but once again the future of the race is very much up in the air. The new team in place, led by Downforce Racing, has thus far missed some major benchmarks, in the process causing the future of the race to be very much in flux.
How bad are things at this moment?
Well IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard sent two of his top executives to Baltimore to meet with city leaders and Downforce Racing to help resolve the issues. Thus far, the group has not set forth a process to buy tickets, found a title sponsor or worked out key details with the Maryland Stadium Authority; there are other issues, but those are the key ones.
The 2012 Baltimore Grand Prix website offers very little information on how to get tickets or become a sponsor other than joining an email list.
To make matters even more difficult, the Baltimore Sun came out with an editorial today calling for the city to forget the Grand Prix.
The IndyCar Series would hate to lose a city that has nearly 15 million people within a three-hour drive of the event, but unless the city and Downforce Racing can resolve their issues soon, then Baltimore will not be hosting a Grand Prix on Labor Day.
But there is still time to make it happen, and give credit to Bernard for doing all he can to keep things together.
There are two key things to watch for over the next few weeks. The first is whether Downforce Racing boss Dale Dillon walks away from the project. If so, it will a key sign that the Baltimore Grand Prix could be a one-and-done race.
The other is whether a major sponsor is landed before the second week of May to get things jump-started. So we will find out soon if Baltimore will be a Grand Prix city.