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Originally published September 04, 2013

Balto Grand Prix Shakes Up Inner Harbor

by Alexis Taylor
AFRO Staff Writer

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    Attendees head towards the Pratt Street Entrance for the second race that began on Sunday shortly before noon. (AFRO Photo/Alexis Taylor)


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Roaring sounds filled the air Aug. 30-Sept. 1 when the Baltimore Grand Prix brought professional racing to the Inner Harbor.

Fans flooded the downtown area for the three-day Labor Day weekend event, which draws an impressive roster of drivers and fans from around the nation.

“It brings revenue into Baltimore and takes away some of the bad vibes the city usually gets,” said area-resident Antonio Edison, 27, who attended Sunday’s final events with his four-year-old son, Ari Edison.

“We came the last two years and he really likes to see the racing. I just want him to experience something different.”

The Grand Prix of Baltimore is a total of three different racing series: the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), the IZOD IndyCar Series, and the Firestone Indie Lights that all take place annually during Labor Day weekend on the urban racetrack.

“There are only a handful of cities in the United States that have their own Grand Prix,” Rayne McAndrews, of Visit Baltimore, told the AFRO. “We’re lucky enough to have our own.”

The non-profit organization has a mission of keeping the city’s tourism industry booming, and McAndrews said this is the perfect event to keep out-of-towners coming back.

This year the Grand Prix boosted it’s focus on fun for the entire family with side-events such as the indoor go-carting offered at the Esskay Family Fun Zone, an obstacle course sponsored by Port Discovery Children’s Museum’s, and a Pinewood Derby hosted by the Boy Scouts of America Baltimore Area Council.

“We like race cars and we thought it would be great family event,” Joseph Cauthen, 43, told the AFRO moments after purchasing tickets for his sons, wife, and mother-in-law.

“They’ve never seen a car race before- so we wanted to expose them to this,” said the Bristow, Va. government financial analyst.

Fans watched intently to see more than a dozen cars hit high speeds while navigating and swerving around the 12 turns included in the two-mile Grand Prix race track lined with over 22 million pounds of concrete and 3,700 feet of fencing for safety.

The precautions came in handy on Saturday when several cars crashed into each other before they could even make it to the starting line of the qualifying race
“I thought it would shorten the race because it was an 8-car pile-up,” said 59-year-old Cecil Henderson, a maintenance mechanic from Lancaster, Pa.

“It was just starting and the cars all jumbled up together.”

This year the races gave Henderson, an enthusiast, another way to feed his need for speed.

“I love cars- period,” he said, when asked why he and his wife decided to make the 80-mile journey to Baltimore to experience the event.

Sunday’s fans got to see more pile-ups before driver Simon Pagenaud took home the champagne and the trophy for the 2013 Grand Prix of Baltimore.

Josef Newgarden came in second as Sebastien Bourdais placed third.



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