By: Spencer Neff
December 5, 2019 | 9:53 AM
As we continue to celebrate the best of the 2010s, this week we change our focus to street courses. Today, we take a look back at the 2011 Baltimore Grand Prix.
Not only was this the city’s first time hosting an IndyCar race, the event would fall in the middle of an intense championship battle.
Power dominates to close points gap
After a heartbreaking end to his 2010 championship bid, Will Power entered the new season as determined as ever. Through 12 races, each driver claimed four victories. At the next round in Sonoma, Power claimed his series-leading fifth win to close the gap even further.
One week later, the IZOD IndyCar Series headed east to the brand-new street circuit along the Inner Harbor in Baltimore.
Not only would the track play a pivotal role in the championship, but Franchitti (1998 Houston) and Power (2007 Las Vegas) also had a chance to claim another win at a new venue to their names.
Early in the weekend, Power took command of the event. With a best lap of 1m20.2447 (91.520 mph) around the 2.04-mile, 12-turn temporary street circuit, the Team Penske driver nabbed his seventh pole of 2011, also a series-best.
Throughout the weekend, the circuit’s rough surface was a topic of conversation in the paddock. During the Sunday morning warmup, Tony Kanaan lost brakes on his KV Racing entry and collided with Penske’s Helio Castroneves. For the race, both drivers moved to backup cars.
From the green flag, Power and second-place starter Graham Rahal forged an intense battle for the lead and swapped it twice in less than a lap. While Power fended off Rahal and the field, he would lead the opening 20 laps until the first set of pit stops. Four laps later, Power cycled back through to the lead.
In the opening stages of the race, the rate of attrition had been low. Of the 28 starters, only Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais has retired from the race before Lap 30, doing so on Lap 9 due to electrical issues.
On Lap 32, the KV Racing Technology entry of Tomas Scheckter stalled in Turn 3 and brought out the first caution flag of the afternoon. During the Lap 37 restart, Ryan Briscoe and Ryan Hunter-Reay made contact entering the Turn 3 hairpin.
While Hunter-Reay spun, the Andretti Autosport driver was able to continue. Behind him, Briscoe stalled his Team Penske machine before continuing on moments later. As a result, most of the field behind him was stalled in the hairpin turn as well, prompting the second caution flag of the race.
After a lengthy caution to get the field reset, another intense restart awaited. As Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti looked to take over second and nearly went sideways doing so, Rahal held the position behind Power.
By Lap 59, Power’s lead had grown to nearly three seconds. Two laps later, the Australian cycled back to the front and never looked back.
In his second consecutive win, he bested Newman-Haas Racing’s Oriol Servia by 10.2096 seconds. After a disastrous start to his day, Kanaan recovered to finish third after starting 27th.
By leading two laps and finishing third, Franchitti kept his points lead at a scant five with three races remaining. With the series switching to a new Dallara chassis for 2012, this would be the final race on a temporary street course for the IR03.
Following a runner-up finish (Franchitti ran eighth) in Motegi two weeks later, Power took back the points lead. After a disastrous race at Kentucky Speedway (19th to Franchitti’s second), Power entered the season finale in Las Vegas 18 points back.
On Lap 11 of that race, a massive 15-car accident ended Power’s chances and injured his back. Unfortunately, the crash also claimed the life of 2005 Series Champion Dan Wheldon. As a result, the race was cancelled and Franchitti earned his fourth title in five years.
Following another heartbreaking defeat in 2012, Power used a late-season surge to win his first title in 2014.
After a successful debut in 2011, the Grand Prix of Baltimore returned in 2012 and 2013. Following issues with scheduling and planning, the event was shelved for 2014 and 2015.
Unfortunately, the event has yet to make its return to the schedule. Since then, only Houston (2013-2014) has joined the list of IndyCar street courses
Header Image By: Michael L. Levitt LAT Photo USA