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09/16/13
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Baltimore Grand Prix's survival wasn't helped by racing's murky future
A racing car industry in transition helped doom the Grand Prix of Baltimore.

Two major racing circuits are merging. A third is considering compressing its season so it doesn’t go head-to-head with the National Football League.

With all the talk Friday about the inability to find dates to hold the Grand Prix in 2014 and 2014, what was lost in the discussion is how changes far beyond Baltimore made coming up with those dates so difficult. That helped bring an end to an Inner Harbor event supporters said brought thousands of people downtown on a slow Labor Day weekend despite detractors who said it created a traffic nightmare that kept people away from work and downtown restaurants.

The merger of the American Le Mans series and the Rolex Grand Am Series in 2014 will mean a shorter schedule. The Tudor Sports Car Championship series has not yet released its 2014 schedule but it is expected to have as 10 to 12 races, as many as 10 fewer than before the two circuits combine.

At the same time, IndyCar is considering big changes of its own as it works to expand its popularity in the U.S. The racing circuit commissioned a report by Boston Consulting Group that recommends shrinking the length of the season to 19 weeks, starting in April and ending in August. The report recommended the regular season be followed by a three-week playoff series of races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, according to the Associated Press, which obtained a copy of the report. IndyCar said the report was an early report in the process and was subject to change.

IndyCar wants to end its season on or before Labor Day weekend, if possible, because it is harder to get fans attention once the National Football League season starts, said Brian Carroccio, a columnist for AutoRacing1, an industry website.

“They want to do that mainly for television because after Labor Day you don’t get as much of a television audience because of football,” said Carroccio, a columnist for AutoRacing1, a racing industry website.

IndyCar officials did not elaborate beyond the statement they issued Friday expressing disappointment a date could not be agreed upon.

The current IndyCar season started March 24 with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 24 and won’t conclude until Oct. 5 and Oct. 6 with the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston. IndyCar has yet to release its 2014 schedule.

Terry Angstadt, who when he was president of IndyCar’s commercial division, signed the sanctioning agreement that brought the Grand Prix to Baltimore, said that Baltimore proved it is an important market for IndyCar. It was one of only two IndyCar races on the East Coast.

“The local support was solid,” he said. “I think anyone who would say they would intentionally want to lose it would not be accurate,” said Angstadt, president of Green Savoree Racing Promotions, which owns IndyCar races in Toronto and St. Petersburg, Fla.

The inability to find dates for the Grand Prix of Baltimore in 2014 and 2015 is why the race is not coming back, J.P. Grant, the head Race On LLC, the Grand Prix’s promoter, reiterated Monday.

Organizers decided Thursday night to cancel the race because it was clear there was no way of reconciling the different schedules of all the parties involved, Grant said Monday. IndyCar wanted one weekend date in August and the Le Mans circuit wanted another August weekend date, Grant said. He spent much of Labor Day weekend talking to IndyCar and Le Mans officials during the Grand Prix to try to come up with a date all could agree on.

Race On did not expect to turn a profit on this year’s race, although Grant has said it was on the road to turning a profit in the future. He declined to specify when the Grand Prix was expected to become profitable.

“This was about the date, strictly about the date,” Grant said when asked whether organizers decided to cancel the Grand Prix because it has yet to turn a profit.

“I’m a Baltimore guy and I just think Baltimore deserves an event like this something positive that shows the city in the best light,” he said. Baltimore Business Journal

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