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Auto Racing

Waving (checkered) flag for car race in city

The Baltimore Sun

What exactly are we envisioning for the big IndyCar race proposed for Baltimore in 2011?

Speeding cars skidding around street corners?The smell of burning rubber and fuel filling the air?

Wild-eyed crowds packing the sidewalks?

Don't we already have that around here?

It's called: Saturday night in Fells Point when the bars close.

(BA-DA-BOOM!)

On the other hand, I'm all for anything that brings people downtown in sufficient numbers that it deters the degenerates who have been roughing up tourists and natives alike lately.

So put me down as a supporter of the Baltimore Grand Prix - love the name, pure class - which would have Indy cars careening around a 2.4-mile course in the Inner Harbor two years from now.

Let's face it, when you think of race cars barreling through city streets lined by cheering crowds, you think of, well, Monaco.

So think of Baltimore as the Monaco of the Mid-Atlantic and let's make this baby happen.

According to recent articles by The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Barker, organizers predict the race would attract more than 150,000 visitors and generate as much as $100 million in spending over four days on ticket prices, hotel rooms, restaurant meals, etc.

That's way more than the $60 million generated by the Preakness. Which is why you can bet there are already politicians and local businessmen standing in front of a mirror with their hand outstretched while practicing the classic Baltimore greeting: "Where's mine?"

Would a big street race in the middle of a large city cause a few hassles for residents?

Oh, you betcha.

Noise would certainly be an issue. I imagine if you live or work anywhere near the course, the roar of dozens of race-car engines and the squeal of tires would get a little old after a few hours, never mind four days.

And cordoning off the race route will cause some major traffic problems, too.

For instance, I don't know if you've ever been on President Street on a Friday or Saturday evening, but it's an absolute nightmare.

Bumper-to-bumper traffic, mistimed traffic lights, people darting across the crosswalks when they shouldn't - it has to be the worst street in the city on weekends.

Now imagine there's a big race going on a few blocks west, with parts of a half-dozen streets closed off.

Are you kidding me?

Still, my guess is that most people who live downtown would put up with some noise and traffic congestion to land an event of that magnitude, especially if it generates anywhere near $100 million in revenue.

Right now, the Inner Harbor course is expected to include parts of Light, Pratt, Conway, Camden and Russell streets.

They'd all be fenced off with protective barriers so we wouldn't see cheerful headlines like "40 Injured as Race Car Plows into Hard Rock Cafe."

But here's my favorite part of the layout: The pit area would be adjacent to Camden Yards. And the race, remember, will be held in late summer or early fall.

OK, are you thinking what I'm thinking?

A little Indy Cars/Orioles cross-promotion?

Danica Patrick throwing out the first ball at an O's game?

Nick Markakis and Adam Jones working with the pit crews, changing tires or fueling cars before heading off to the ballpark at night?

MASN sideline reporter Amber Theoharis interviewing driver Helio Castroneves when the race is over and asking him if he had his good stuff?

Dave Trembley waving the checkered flag as the winner crosses the finish line?

Hey, a guy can dream, can't he?

Speaking of dreaming, I guess it's fine that they're holding the race at the Inner Harbor. But my dream location for the Baltimore Grand Prix would've been - are you ready? - Highlandtown. Stay with me here.

Imagine two dozen Indy cars screaming down Eastern Avenue at 200 mph, roaring past Patterson Park, a cheering crowd lining both sides of the street as a tire blows off one of the cars and crashes through the front door of Nick's Carry-out.

Who wouldn't turn out to see that?

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