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Baltimore Grand Prix isn't just risky for drivers

24 Feb 2001: Ken Schrader who drives a Pontiac Grand Prix #36 for MB2 Motorsports speeds down the track during the Dura Lube 400, part of the Winston Cup Series at the North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, North Carolina.

Steve Chiotakis: And now, Marketplace Sports! The city of Baltimore is gearing up for its first-ever Grand Prix auto racing event this weekend. Dozens of cars will race on city streets at speeds approaching 180 miles per hour. But drivers aren't the only ones taking the big risk.

Marketplace's Amy Scott reports now, the Grand Prix isn't expected to make grand profits.


Amy Scott: Under a tent in downtown Baltimore, technicians put the finishing touches on a Lola-Mazda racecar.

Tom Maplethorpe: They're doing a little wiring work, some small bodywork. Just final spit and polish really, for the race on Saturday.

Tom Maplethorpe is team manager for Oryx Racing. His team will compete in Saturday's American Le Mans Series race. The temporary street course winds past Camden Yards and the Inner Harbor.

Jay Davidson is president of the Baltimore Grand Prix. He says the event could bring $50 million to $60 million to the region, from ticket sales and tourism, not to mention freshly paved streets.

But the promoter expects to lose money -- at least at first.

Jay Davidson: We're going to have somewhat of a loss this year. And basically the idea is to create event equity, where people want to come back and mark this on their calendars, so they come back year-after-year, and ultimately this can be a profitable event.

Other cities have struggled to stay fixtures on the racing circuit. Detroit suspended its grand prix during the recession.

Terry Angstadt of IndyCar says a race in June in Milwaukee didn't sell well.

Terry Angstadt: If you turned on the TV, there weren't a lot of people in the grandstands. So it was just a tough one for us. I wish we could bat a thousand. We don't.

But Angstadt is optimistic for Baltimore. He expects grandstand tickets for Sunday's race to sell out.

In Baltimore, I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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