The 2011 version of the Baltimore Grand Prix was a success at the gate with more than 100,000 attending the two-day festivities of American Le Mans races on Saturday and IndyCar racing on Sunday. However, from a business standpoint, for a while it looked bleak that there would even be a second race in Baltimore.
How bad did things look for the race? Well The Baltimore Sun in an April 17, 2012 editorial said "Baltimore should cut its losses and accept that the race won't happen this year."
Well, the IndyCar brass liked the idea of a race on the East Coast that could draw fans from the major media markets. Getting fans and press from New York to Washington, D.C., the series felt felt like a key move for them.
So the IndyCar brass made a call to Michael Andretti, who had taken over the Milwaukee race and made it a success. They asked him if he could handle the Baltimore race.
Andretti came to Charm City, met with city leaders, accepted the challenge and saved the race.
Now, the newly minted Grand Prix of Baltimore is in the stable promotional hands of Andretti Sports Marketing. The Andretti name is both well known and loved in that region of the country, plus Baltimore is not far from the families' eastern Pennsylvania home.
So the pressure is on the Andretti Autosport team to win the street race in Charm City. Two members of the team, Ryan Hunter-Reay, who still has an outside chance to win the driver's championship, and Marco Andretti know they carry added pressure, but they welcome the challenge.
Both drivers spoke with me recently about this race and their approach to taking on the streets of Baltimore.
You come to Baltimore with a chance of beating Will Power for the series championship. Talk about your season.
Hunter-Reay: "Regardless of what happens in Baltimore, we have had an amazing season. We have had three wins, tied with Will [Power] for the most this year. I can't say enough about my team, and the fact that they have put me in a position to win the title is all I could have asked for."
How is the street course in Baltimore?
Andretti: "It is by far the most physical track we run this year. As a driver, I have to be in shape, and my crew has to have our car perfectly set up. I plan on shadowing Ryan in this race and working together with him throughout the day. That said, if I have a chance to win, you can bet that I will because winning the last race of the season and doing it for the team and my family, who are now involved with the race, would be awesome."
How important is it for an Andretti car to win in Baltimore?
Hunter-Reay: "I won the race that Andretti Sports Marketing promotes in Milwaukee, so thus far we are undefeated. And winning here would be great with the drivers' championship on the line."
Andretti: "This is a home race for us. We are from up the road in eastern Pennsylvania, and we have lots of fans here. So yes, winning the race would be sweet. I know that this race is going to continue to get bigger, and it will be one of the premier events on the IndyCar Series."
The Grand Prix of Baltimore can be seen be seen Sunday on NBC Sports Network at 2:30 p.m. ET and the race can be heard on the IMS Radio network or on the IndyCar website.
*All quotes used in this story were obtained in first hand interviews with each driver and scheduled by the IndyCar PR team.