Friday, September 2, 2011

Baltimore Grand Prix Preview

And so, with only 4 races left in the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series campaign, we come to the Baltimore Grand Prix. As an all-new event, it’s a little tough to discern who has a good shot on the course, outside of the Penskes and Ganassis, but the good news is the course looks great. There’s a long straight, some nice passing zones, and some areas where things will probably get a bit dicey (of course, there's the chicane on the front straight and some railroad tracks to address). Let’s hope the event is a great race and a commercial success.

There are plenty of storylines to follow this weekend, so let’s jump right in:

Baltimore Bound: The Baltimore Grand Prix has excited a lot of discussion, both pro and con, with many swearing it’ll be a one-and-done event, and others who think it has a chance to be something special. We’ll see just how Baltimore receives IndyCar and how smooth things go. Personally, I really like this configuration, and hope the finances follow the racing as excellent. Last night, work on the course was still being performed, so today should really give us our first look at what the drivers will see over the weekend. We'll see just who was right about the event after all.

Points Battles Galore: Will Power is within a single race of Dario Franchitti for overall championship points. He’s only behind by a touchdown for the road course championship. Meanwhile, James Hinchcliffe has closed JR Hildebrand’s lead for Rookie of the Year to a mere 3 points. Depending on how things go Sunday, we could have new leaders in each of those categories. Don’t forget the Briscoe/Servia/Kanaan battle for P4-P6, as well, which has turned into a great back-and-forth.

Simona In The USA: Finally, we found out yesterday that Simona de Silvestro was allowed back in the United States, and will be racing at Baltimore for HVM Racing. Apparently, Customs and Immigration finally decided a pretty Swiss race car driver was not a major threat to national security. Welcome back, Simona—may your return be a happy one.

Pantano Power!: Giorgio Pantano didn’t seem to have missed a beat from his long absence from IndyCar last week, finishing a strong P6 before a penalty knocked his official spot back to P17. If you don’t think Dreyer and Reinbold Racing will be extra motivated to kick some butt this weekend, you may want to think again.

Pantano hopes for happier times in
(Image Courtesy IndyCar Media)

TScheck Returns: We thought Tomas Scheckter’s Redline Energy deal for Indy was a one-off, but SH Racing was so happy with their P8 at Indy that they decided to come back for one more race. Tomas is always a blast to watch, and with this track configuration, there’s bound to be some fireworks before it’s all said and done.

Plowey Once Again: After a very nice P12 at Sonoma (where I’m pretty sure he provided half the passing), Plowey hits his final race of the year in Baltimore. Can he improve from Sonoma, and how does it play into his chance for next year?

Newman/Haas Confidence: The N/H team seems very confident going into this race, and they’ve indeed done very well on tracks where they haven’t even tested. Their ability to hit on a good setup early could see great finishes for Oriol Servia and James Hinchcliffe. If you’re going to really watch a team this weekend, this might be the one.

Lights Update: Conor Daly returns once again, which should make for a challenging race for teammates Esteban Guerrieri and Josef Newgarden. But the biggest Lights news of the week has to be the return of 56 year-old Willy T. Ribbs, who will be racing alongside all the youngsters at Baltimore. It’ll be really intriguing to see how it all plays out. In other news, Oliver Webb returns in the #12 car for Jensen Motorsport.

Other Burning Questions: Will Andretti Autosport step up for their third victory of 2011? Will Danica finish above P20 as the Farewell Tour continues? Does Dale Coyne Racing continue their streak of impressive performances? Is there any way someone doesn’t get taken out early in the hairpin turn? Does Bia qualify in the Top 12 again?

Pole Position: Is there any earthly reason why I don’t go with Will Power here?

Winner: Power really needs this one to close the championship gap, but how cool would it be to see an Oriol win in Baltimore for once?

Best Looking Car: It’s a tie this week. Although Tomas Scheckter’s Redline Energy car is going to turn heads, Mike Conway’s Buffalo Wild Wings car is one I hope we see plenty more of.

Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend, enjoy the Baltimore Grand Prix, and we’ll meet back here after the race. Because I don’t say it enough, thanks for your time, your emails, and your comments!

1 comment:

  1. Just got back from Baltimore. It was a great day. It was surprisingly crowded considering it was a Friday. I thought we would have the run of the place, but it was pretty busy. If it was like this on Friday, then I expect it will be a good weekend attendance-wise.

    Practice got started late today. F3000 was supposed to get started at 8:00 AM but nobody got on the track until about 1:30. An HVM guy in the paddock said that the track wasn't ready. Obviously having a hurricane barrel though here 5 days ago didn't help with the preparations.

    The course looks good. It must be challenging because there was a crash in every session. In fact the Indycars had 3 crashes, Dixon, Briscoe, and Viso. It is wide in the passing zones but really narrow in other places.

    Highlights of the day for me, other than the on-track action. 1. Oriol Servia coming over to pop open a locked door to let us into a restricted area; 2. Meeting Randy Bernard walking around outside the paddock. Thanked him for doing a great job. 3. Saw Sebastian Bourdais just wandering around along Pratt Street wearing civvies during the Star Mazda practice. Nobody noticed him because he just looked like a normal guy.

    One last note: The ALMS cars were by far the best sounding cars on the track today. I hope the Indycar engines next year can rival that.