Major Events it Currently Hosts
- Grand Prix of Baltimore featuring the Indycar Series and the American Le Mans Series
A more recent addition to the Indycar and ALMS calendars, the Baltimore street circuit around the city’s Inner Harbor and its Labor Day race weekend has proven popular with spectators and competitors alike. After well-documented financial problems in 2011, Michael Andretti and his promotional company stepped in to “rescue” the race for 2012 and ensured its survival for future years. The first two years have been marred by delays early in the weekend relating to the installation of a temporary chicane on the start- finish straight to prevent cars from launching over the light rail tracks that cross the racing surface and bisect the circuit.
The track is located on city streets in and around the city’s popular Inner Harbor development and Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the home stadium of Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles. With four long high-speed blasts, the Baltimore circuit doesn’t have the boring, “point-and squirt” qualities that have blighted many street courses. In theory, the fastest park of the track is between is the start-finish straightaway and turn 1, but recent years have seen the installation of a temporary chicane before the start-finish line in order to prevent cars from lifting off when they cross the light rail tracks that bisect the track in this location. The two key overtaking zones are the hairpins at turn 1 and turn 3. One final note is that the pits here are located on the straight between turns 7 and 8, not on the start-finish straight as is normal.
How to Get There
You can try to drive and park in the surrounding public and hotel garages if you must, but few tracks in America are as well served by public transit as Baltimore is. The Baltimore Light Rail, which crosses right through the circuit, runs service from the northern and southern suburbs throughout the race weekend with stops only a block or two from the track. If you’re arriving via light rail from the south, you’ll exit the train at the Hamburg St. stop located by Ravens Stadium and walk five minutes to the track’s Gate F between turns 8 and 9. If you are arriving from the north, you’ll arrive at the Baltimore Street stop 1.5 blocks from Gate A on Eutaw St.
If you, like many fans, are coming from the Washington DC area, it is recommended that you park (for free, as of 2012) at the Patapsco light rail stop located close to I-95. From there, you can ride the light rail right to the track.
In addition, there is also the Baltimore Subway which operates from the suburb of Owings Mills, northwest of the city. Exit the subway at the Charles Street Station located only two blocks from Gate B at the track.
Where to Watch
There are 16 reserved-seat grandstands located around the track. Nearly all of them are served by PA loudspeakers and a large TV screen. When purchasing, refer to the most recent track map to ensure you’ll be within sight of a big screen if you want to follow all of the action.
In terms of picking a grandstand, it really boils down to what you want to see going in front of you. If you want to see cars going quickly, there are plenty of stands located along the fast straightaways. If you want to see overtaking, however, then you need to focus your attention on stands 3 and 4 located in the turn 1 hairpin and stand 7 located at the turn 3 hairpin.
Here is the view fans had in turn 3 had of the slightly chaotic start to the 2011 Indycar race in Baltimore.
In addition to reserved seats in a grandstand, general admission tickets are available. These allow you to stand along the fence around certain portions of the track. In a change from 2011, the following year the organizers covered up much more of the fencing along the track, limiting GA ticketholders’ options quite dramatically. If you want to sit with a GA ticket, you can enjoy a shady spot on the inside of the circuit between turns 9 and 10. It is unlikely you’ll be able to hear the PA or see a big screen if you only purchase general admission tickets.
There are actually two separate paddock areas in Baltimore, each in its own location and with its own access restrictions. The Indycar, Indy Lights, Formula Mazda and FF2000 paddock is located inside the Baltimore Convention Center and requires a separate $35 paddock pass. The ALMS paddock is located outside turn 8 and is free to any ticket holder (reserved or general admission).
Where to Eat
On top of the carnival-food vendors serving fans in the infield, there are scores of restaurants in and around the track. Here are just a couple of favorites:
- Jimmy John’s, located in the Hilton (Howard St. side) inside the track has quality cold subs.
- Two legendary Baltimore sports bars, Pickles Pub and Sliders, are located just beyond the catch fencing outside of turn 10. If you want a real piece of Baltimore culture, go to one of them, order some of the local beer, National Bohemian (nicknamed ”Natty Boh”), and get something made with crab.
- Boog’s Barbeque is located on Eutaw street inside Oriole Park. Owned by former Oriole slugger John “Boog” Powell, it specializes in barbecued beef and pork sandwiches.
Where to Stay
As the track is in the middle of Baltimore’s central business and tourist districts, there is no shortage of hotel rooms near the track. Hotels located either inside or along the circuit include the Hilton Baltimore, Marriott at Camden Yards, Sheraton Inner Harbor, Hyatt Regency Baltimore, Royal Sonesta, and the Hampton Inn Downtown-Convention Center. There are also many hotels located within a few blocks of the circuit.
For a cheaper stay, take advantage of the hotels around BWI Airport. Try and find one that will offer you free shuttles to and from the BWI light rail station. From there, you’ll be able to ride straight to the track.
- You should check the local weather each day and pack accordingly. The weather in the Mid-Atlantic region can be very volatile during the autumn. Over the first two races in Baltimore, fans have experienced days of 90 degree heat, days of 60 degree cool, clouds, bright sunshine, drizzle, steady rain and two lightning warnings requiring fans to scurry from the grandstands.
- The hotels (especially the Hilton) are very nice about letting fans chill in the lobby, making it a great place to get out of the sun or rain.
- If you’re sitting in stands 8-10 and crave a bathroom nicer than the porto-potties provided around the track, head behind the fence to the Hampton Inn where, if you’re subtle about things, you can use the clean bathroom located just off the lobby. The hotels inside the track such as the Hilton and Sheraton are also cooperative about letting fans use their facilities.
Here’s a view of the track’s temporary chicane from one of the Hilton’s elevated lobby areas.