Can a Rhode Island Grand Prix avoid Baltimore’s potholes?

Will Providence, R.I., suffer the headaches and problems that plagued Baltimore, or will it burn rubber without a hitch?

According to reports, the Baltimore Grand Prix is set to be replaced, and it looks as if it is staying on the East Coast. And Providence is in the lead.

As Robin Miller of RACER Magazine reported last week, IndyCar is working on its schedule for 2014 and 2015. And it looks as if it has found a street course to fill the void that Baltimore left. Although there are no new venues planned for IndyCar’s schedule next year, there are a few being discussed for 2015. And, it looks as if the capital of Rhode Island is being eyed to replace Baltimore on IndyCar’s schedule. The proposed course is a 2.1-mile, 11-turn circuit which will take place downtown and have its start and finish line at the State House.

When I spoke with Mark Perrone, president and general manager of the New England Grand Prix, he said that there is significant backing from both the city and the state to host the race.

“They have been tremendous, which is great because the key to a street circuit is municipal cooperation," Perrone said. He said the state embraces major events, citing the popular extreme sports event X Games as starting in Providence.

If Providence does replace Baltimore in IndyCar’s lineup, it’ll be replacing a city that was plagued with problems from the starting line. Since the first checkered flag unfurled in 2011, the Grand Prix of Baltimore lost money and had trouble lining up sponsors. On a more mundane level, road closures and construction led to dreadful commutes for locals days and weeks before the race.

Perrone didn’t address specific issues associated with the Baltimore Grand Prix, but he said he wasn’t surprised Baltimore faced significant hurdles in hosting the race.

“The problems they faced aren’t just indigenous to Baltimore, especially when there’s a street circuit involved. I have never seen one error-free, and if you have, I would love for you to let me know," he said.

Perrone said he expects challenges to occur if Providence is selected.

“I think I’d be telling stories if I said we weren’t going to face problems. But our team is well-equipped and hopefully we can anticipate challenges before they happen," he said.

After Baltimore’s inaugural race, the city claimed millions of dollars in unpaid fees from Baltimore Racing Development, the organizer of the 2011 Grand Prix, before canceling its contract with the group. Its second contract with Downforce Racing was canceled within three months, and then Andretti Sports Marketing stepped in.

Perrone said Andretti Sports did an excellent job in taking over the Baltimore Grand Prix and stressed that he was upset that a date couldn’t be agreed upon.

“We were rooting for them to find a solution. I think Baltimore and New England would have given IndyCar a great presence on the East Coast," he said.

As for title and presenting sponsors, Perrone said the process is nearing completion. Baltimore Business Journal

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