Grand Prix takes Baltimore by storm
The decision to host an auto race that required millions in public funding and snarled traffic for weeks leading up to the event drew some criticism, but the tens of thousands who jammed the streets Sunday for the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix weren't complaining.
"I've never been to any race before, but all the grandstands and what they did to the whole city - what used to be a street is now a track - it's really nice," said Brad Herrmann, a 2010 North Carroll High School graduate who now attends York College. "I do mechanical engineering there, so I love to come down here and look at the engines."
Oh, those engines. They roared to life at a deafening level that shook buildings and made ear plugs the most important fashion accessory of the day as 28 professional drivers maneuvered their way 75 times around a 2-mile track that featured 12 turns and some bumpy sections.
Will Power won in a dominating performance and said afterward that it was the "toughest" race he's been in all year. The aptly named Oriol Servia placed second in the city the Baltimore Orioles call home. Series points leader Dario Franchitti took fourth and fan favorite Danica Patrick finished sixth in one of her final IndyCar races before moving to NASCAR.
The drivers gave the city and the course mostly high marks and marveled at the number of spectators. Race officials estimated more than 100,000 turned out to see cars zoom past at more than 150 mph in spots.
While there were plenty of diehard fans of the sport who descended upon the city from all over, the majority of spectators seemed to be racing novices who live only a short drive from Baltimore. Frederick's Jon Baker was among those attending his first open-wheel race.
"We go to NASCAR races, but that's five or six hours of driving," he said. "You have to check out something this close."
The fans were enthusiastic and seemed to avail themselves of local businesses, particularly the bars on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Baltimore traditionally isn't a big tourist destination on Labor Day weekend, but hotels, restaurants and other businesses were booming thanks to the event.
That's something Westminster resident Angel Rivera noted.
"I'm glad they gave the naysayers something to talk about considering they brought out a big crowd that's going to add money to the economy," Rivera said.
The city has contracted to host the Baltimore Grand Prix through 2015. It reportedly cost nearly $6 million to get the roads in shape for the race and preparing the course caused traffic jams for weeks, including a particularly nasty Thursday commute.
Rivera thought it was well worth it.
"I've been an IndyCar fan since I was a child, and I always wanted to go to a race. When I heard this was going to be here ... I was going to be here," he said. "I think they did a great job. It's a very big success." Carroll County Times