Joe Jennings, IndyCar Correspondent
Pratt Street is one of the busier east-west roadways in Baltimore and the street also forms the front-stretch for this weekend’s racing activities -- the Grand Prix of Baltimore, an event that features the IZOD IndyCar Series. Since railroad tracks cross over Pratt Street, a chicane was installed a year ago to slow the cars as they raced across the tracks, but based on input from drivers and others, the chicane was eliminated from this year’s track layout. But it didn’t work out as the IndyCars lifted off the ground when they ran across the tracks.
It was an interesting experience, and I saw the sky for a second but I didn’t have time to think.
In the opening round of IndyCar practice on Friday morning, the front ends of several cars lifted off the ground as they crossed over the tracks. Simon Pagenaud, for one, had a thrilling experience when onlookers believed his car lifted some 8 inches off the ground, which got the immediate attention of IndyCar officials.
Said Pagenaud, “It was an interesting experience, and I saw the sky for a second but I didn’t have time to think. I got some big air under the car, and I am sure you will see it on U-tube. The tub was the first thing to hit the ground, and luckily, the new cars are much better (sturdier). It was a very harsh landing, but that’s racing.” He went on to say that the Baltimore is a street circuit and anything can happen on this type of track. “I am certain the IndyCar officials will fix it, and we will go forward.”
To smooth out the racing surface, track officials are now grinding the track near the tracks in hopes of improving conditions. Initially, they proposed the installation of a tire-barrier type of chicane as a temporary measure with an overnight installation of a more permanent chicane but this option has been tabled for now.
Beaux Barfield, IndyCar president of competition, addressed the media after the conclusion of practice and indicated every effort is being made to fix the track surface. He confirmed that the drivers had recommended elimination of the chicane but as soon as they cars took to the track, he realized it wasn’t the best move, so he ended the session early.
At this time, no on-track action is taking place as workers seek to smooth out the track surface. Planned for the afternoon were a second IndyCar practice and a similar American LeMans Series practice along with Star Mazda and ALMS qualifications.