First Baltimore Grand Prix had something for everyone
If you're scratching your head right now and trying to figure out exactly what happened on the streets of Baltimore on Sunday, you're probably missing the point.
The Baltimore Grand Prix was never intended to make local sports fans turn in their Ravens season tickets and turn into instant gearheads. It was intended to be a great street festival that raises the international profile of the city. On that level, it's hard to argue with the outcome.
This was about telling the story of Baltimore," said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
I'll let others wonder whether it was worth the civic inconvenience or the public infrastructure money that was expended to get the Inner Harbor area ready for three days of qualifying and racing. Six million bucks is a lot of money when you've got struggling schools and a perpetual budget crisis, but it's still OK to have a little fun once in awhile.
There was something for everybody, from the serious racing fans and the international tourists to the uninitiated and the just plain curious. Let's just hope it doesn't convince a bunch of people to go home and try to do their own brakes.
It's going to take awhile for Baltimore to fully establish itself as a major racing destination, but this was a pretty good start.
Let's be honest. Most of you — and me — didn't know anything about Will Power before he showed up in town and won the pole Saturday. I still don't know anything about willpower, but that's a story for a different day.
Power pretty much went wire-to-wire to take the checkered flag, which may leave some novice fans wondering whether there's enough strategy and intrigue on the track to keep their interest from year to year. That's a fair question, and one that probably will be answered with some minor changes in the configuration of the course and with some greater awareness of the intricacies of open-wheel racing in the later incarnations of this event.
The first Baltimore Grand Prix was just an opportunity for all of us to get acquainted with Indy Car street racing and the wide range of activities that come along with the feature race. Other than the noise — which wouldn't have been a big deal if somebody had told me and Kevin Cowherd to bring some earplugs — what's not to like?
The drivers are all charming and good-looking and are more than willing to play along with just about any story angle. The second-place finisher was a guy named Oriol Servia, who said afterward that he was really excited about the Indy Car series coming to Baltimore because the course went right by Oriole Park and his name is basically the Spanish version of our baseball team's nickname.
I never got a chance to ask what it was like to have the name Will Power, but I'm guessing I would have gotten a lot more cooperation than I did in my famous non-interview with relief pitcher J.J. Putz a few years ago.
The sport couldn't be more fan friendly, and the proof of that came earlier in the day, after eventual third-place finisher Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves escaped injury in a serious pileup during his morning practice run. The crash forced both to go with alternate cars and start in the final row, but they were still out in the paddock greeting fans and sponsors before the race.
There was so much more to see than just a bunch of fast cars screaming around the city streets, though that was pretty cool. If you wanted to, you could stand within a few feet of the mechanics while they fine-tuned the cars after qualifying, or you could stake out the GoDaddy.com team garage to take a picture with Danica Patrick. I would have done that if not for the restraining order.
So what if a lot of people showed up more for the street festival than the street race. There's plenty of time for us to get our gears on. The contract with the Indy Car Series calls for at least four more Grand Prixs, and it's probably fair to assume that — as well as things appear to have gone over the past three days — it will run even smoother next year.
It was a very good race.
It was an even better party.
It was a terrific spectacle.
What more could you ask? Baltimore Sun