Let's get this out of the way first - the Baltimore Grand Prix was IndyCar's finest moment at a street course this season. Maybe not in terms of on-track action, but definitely in terms of promoting, fan support, and host city ambience.
And if the series isn't careful, the Long Beach Grand Prix could end up as second-fiddle to the newest urban star on the schedule.
Over 100,000 people flooded the temporary course in Baltimore to see the action on Sunday, the largest non-Indianapolis crowd all year. Not only that, but the track announced "Standing Room Only" early on Sunday and people continued to flood the circuit.
It is a dramatic, visible success story in a year when traditional oval events are so bereft of fans that they could be sponsored by aluminum companies. The die-hard ovalistas still refuse to accept that street racing is IndyCar racing, but the evidence is against them, and it was captured in high-definition color.
The IndyCar race itself turned out to be a little less than what everyone expected, with less mayhem (save for an amusing parking lot fiasco involving 11 cars in the hairpin after Ryan Briscoe turned Ryan Hunter-Reay) and an exaggerated margin of victory. But on the plus side, the restarts were close and racy without being the complete disasters from Toronto earlier this year.
The most mayhem appeared to occur within Race Control (again... see below), but thankfully the fans on the scene weren't aware of most of it. They did have to deal with one of the worst national anthem performances in recent history, but that ended up being a small price to pay for what turned out to be a great event.
One wonders whether the crowd will return next year to see the advent of the turbo-powered 2012 IndyCars. If they do, then it's safe to say that Baltimore will not only be safe on the schedule, but it may become one of the series' crown jewels in a time when jewelry is in short supply.
- Will Power not only checked out on the field, but he ended up the day five points behind Dario Franchitti in the overall standings. The better news for Power and Penske? There's one more road course left on the schedule at Motegi.
- Tony Kanaan nearly finished his day in the hospital after a terrifying shunt in Turn 1 during morning warmups. Instead, the Brazilian loaded his cast-iron balls into a back-up car and finished the race on the podium in third place. The honey badger bows his head in deferential respect.
- Other great stories: Oriol Servia in 2nd, Danica Patrick in 6th, Martin Plowman in 11th, and Simona de Silvestro leading until a long pit stop shuffled her back to 12th.
- Scott Dixon rebounded from damage suffered in the giant traffic jam in the hairpin to finish 5th.
- Robin Miller's grid run was one of the more entertaining moments of the weekend.
- Baltimore. It truly is an IndyCar town. Special kudos to the track workers who made last-minute alterations at the request of the series.
- IndyCar Race Control. You know, it's not too much to ask to go ONE RACE without the guys in charge looking like monkeys seducing footballs. It just isn't. From the race going green WHILE A HOLMATRO SAFETY TRUCK WAS ON THE TRACK IN TURN ONE to the absolute chaos that reigned during the ridiculously long yellow flag after the hairpin became a parking garage, it reflects poorly on the series. It gives the vibe of a lack of preparation, and combined with the fiascoes from the rest of the season... well, it makes our sport look like a joke. And NASCAR is just loving the punchline.
- HVM Racing cost themselves a top 10 - or better - by failing to short-fill Simona de Silvestro's #78 on the final pit stop. Graham Rahal also suffered from poor pit strategy after a stellar drive that saw him as the only driver in the same zip code as Will Power.
- Dale Coyne Racing had a great qualifying performance negated by equipment issues and contact, with James Jakes and Sebastien Bourdais finishing 27th and 28th, respectively.
- What in the world is going on with Marco Andretti lately?
- KV Racing's triumph with Kanaan was offset by both of the other Lotus cars of Takuma Sato and EJ Viso (again) spinning out with less than 5 laps to go.
- Ryan Briscoe threw away a good run by divebombing Ryan Hunter-Reay, then had the audacity to say that he was penalized because he was not a championship contender. No, Ryan, you were penalized because you took the corner like a red-striper in iRacing.