IndyCar to race in Baltimore next year

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard says a road race in Baltimore will be on the schedule next year.

Baltimore officials have approved a contract and an IndyCar spokeswoman said the signing of a sanctioning agreement is a formality.

"We're excited," Bernard said during Indianapolis 500 practice on Friday. "There's a bunch of them (Baltimore officials) flying in here. We're excited to be heading to Baltimore."

The contract with a group of local investors calls for the race to be held every August for five years. City officials have estimated it will draw 100,000 spectators and generate millions in annual economic impact.

The race would be the Indianapolis-based league's only event in the mid-Atlantic region, giving it a foothold in a densely populated area that has little history with open-wheel racing. IndyCar also says it's considering adding a race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H.

New Hampshire is just one of Bruton Smith's tracks.

"I have a lot of respect for him," Bernard said. "He's a great promoter. I'm sure I can learn a lot from him. We want to go to his tracks."

Bernard said there could be expansion in the future.

"We have a lot of interest from a lot of tracks and ovals which I've heard we haven't seen in a long time," Bernard said. "I think what we'll see is we'll have an opportunity to select the ones that are best for us and will make us financially viable."

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BERNARD'S FIRST 500: Bernard will attend his first Indianapolis 500 this year, and he doesn't plan to spend his whole day in a suite.

"I'm going to move around. I'm going to watch from four or five different places. I want to be out with the fans and be in different areas where different fans sit," he said. "I just want to take in the whole day and see what everything is about."

Bernard came over to IndyCar from Professional Bull Riding and had no exposure to racing. When he saw his first IndyCar event in Sao Paulo, Brazil, he was shocked.

"Danger is never talked about here because it's a bad word, but there's a heck of a lot more danger than I ever thought there was," he said. "More wrecks. It's just blown my mind."

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TRACY'S SCRAPE: Paul Tracy had the second-fastest lap on Thursday, but his luck wasn't so good on Friday. The veteran scraped the wall on his 14th practice lap, ending his day prematurely.

"It looked to me like he got a little wide and just tapped the wall," KV Racing Technology co-owner Jimmy Vasser said. "Maybe took a little too much downforce off. Maybe he was running a little bit high. He tapped the wall, met the lower right rear wishbone.

Vasser said mechanics were working on the car, which should be ready for Saturday's qualifying session.

"I think that he's ready to go for qualifying, and we kind of have what we have," he said.

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VISO'S ARTWORK: E.J. Viso's helmets offer protection and personality.

The Venezuelan, who drives for KV Racing Technology, comes up with a different helmet design for nearly each race as a form of self expression. Some are given to charities to be auctioned after events.

"We came up with the idea to do a new helmet design for each race," Viso said. "The idea was to express something significant. Not necessarily about the race, but each design is an expression of something I want to communicate at that moment in time."

He calls the helmet he used for the last race at Kansas the Orbitalflow. It's an abstract with a high gloss black base and white spirals.

"With Orbitalflow we wanted to represent the magical moment where the data, the team and the experience of the driver converge to identify and reveal the path," he said.

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SCHWITZER AWARD: Engineers Charles Becnel, Patrick Luke and Christophe Marques from Mezzo Technologies and Tino Belli from Andretti AutoSport were this year's winners of the 44th Schwitzer Award for developing the Mezzo MicroChannel Radiator.

The radiator significantly reduces coolant temperature. Earlier this year, IndyCar approved the technology for use by all teams. It is being evaluated by other race series for possible use.

The annual award honors engineering innovation.