Just two weeks ago, I was getting ready to cover the 2013 Grand Prix of Baltimore, a race won by Simon Pagenaud, who survived a number of crashes to get the victory. Everyone involved with race were talking about 2014 and the momentum that the race was building.
Then Friday, we learned that the race will never be coming back to Charm City. The excuse being used is that with major events already booked in Baltimore for the next two years, race officials say they simply could not find dates that worked.
The announcement of the race ending after a three-year run in Baltimore was made during a press conference. The mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, along with most of the city council and some business leaders, were behind the race. The IndyCar executives, drivers and owners loved having a street race in the mid-Atlantic region.
Attendance-wise, the three-day event held over the past three years drew big crowds of race fans from all over the region. But the real problem here was the lack of a title sponsor and finding a date that both the city and IndyCar could nail down long-term and use to build an event over a five to 10-year period.
Baltimore simply put had issues with long-term planning and that will kill any project like a major race weekend.
There are other cities in the mid-Atlantic where there’s both money and beautiful city streets that would welcome IndyCar long-term to the region. Three cities come to mind that could step up and lock in a Labor Day race.
How about the Grand Prix of Maryland to be held on the streets of Annapolis? The capital of the state offers a wonderful waterfront drop back to the race, and the location being between both Washington and Baltimore would serve as a perfect spot.
If not Annapolis then how about Alexandria, Virginia? You have the backdrop of the city of Washington and the Potomac River as your beauty shots, and Alexandria is another perfect location with plenty of easy access and hotel space.
One other possibility on my list is Wilmington, Delaware, which has a lovely downtown with river views and access to race fans from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. Lastly, I would suggest Richmond, Virginia, a city that many think of for their strong NASCAR roots, but is a great racing city with strong local sports backing.
While it would not be first on my list, they could and would be a city that would embrace the American LeMans and IndyCar series.
The point is that despite Baltimore’s tepid at best support for the race, fans came, spent money and had a great time. It would be silly to see the American LeMans and IndyCar series leave the mid-Atlantic region because of city planning issues.