Michael Andretti's month of May got a little busier on
Wednesday morning when details of his promotion of this year's Grand Prix of
Baltimore were confirmed along with Race On LLC.
That gives him two races under the Andretti Sports Marketing
arm (next month's Milwaukee IndyFest the other) to go along with the five-car
Andretti Autosport IndyCar operation for the month of May. But as he said in a
conference call Wednesday, it's par for the course for his organization.
“We're staffing up to do it,” he said. “We're getting good
people, and it's a great chance to hire into our organization. We're OK.”
ASM took on the promotion of Baltimore following turmoil
that has enveloped the two previous promoters – the original group who ran last
year's race, ousted in December, and the second group called DownForce Racing LLC,
which had internal conflicts among the group's managers and no active promotion
or ticket sales plan, according to reports from The Baltimore Sun.
Andretti saw the appeal based on the success of the event
last year, and feels confident that the company will be able to produce results
in the short amount of time between now and Labor Day weekend.
“We feel good about the operations side. As far as ticket
sales, we'll be OK – we'll go live on May 28, the day after Indianapolis,” he
said. “The biggest issue is sponsorship because a lot of budgets for this year
are closed. But we're realistic on this year, and the numbers will be bigger
next year, as we'll have time to sell sponsors before their budgets close.
Overall, we feel we can still pull this thing off.”
The on-track focus has come with putting the team's fleet of
five IndyCars through their paces in practice so far. Twice, an Andretti car
has topped the timesheets – Sebastian Saavedra on Sunday in the joint
AFS/Andretti car, with Marco Andretti running the month's fastest lap so far on
Tuesday at 223.676 with a substantial tow.
Having competed in CART during the era of the Handford
device, the extra element on the rear wing that allowed for near-slingshot
maneuvers, Andretti described the hole in the air the current DW12 punches as a
rather similar sensation from his drivers' feedback.
“This car pokes a much bigger hole,” he explained. “You can
pick up a draft from further back, and it comes from five-six car lengths back.
It's very similar to what the (Handford) device did around 2000-2001 [LEFT]. I think
what it will do make for some exciting racing with a lot of back-and-forth.
“The biggest thing I'm worried about is when you get that
suction, you get it late in the end of the straight, and then get a huge run,”
he added. “The guy in the lead might not realize you're there going into the
apex. I'm a little worried about some of that, into Turn 1/3.”
James Hinchcliffe, one of Andretti's drivers, said Tuesday
he hates the last hour of practice for that reason alone as some drivers are
hesitant to lead the field in group running.
The turbo boost increase of roughly 40-50hp that will come
in on Friday should affect everyone equally, Andretti said, and ultimately the
one-off change for Fast Friday and qualifying will be just for that.
“It's the same for everybody,” he said. “I don't care if
we're 215 or 225. It's just a number. I think pole should be around 222 or so,
and it should be fine and we'll be OK with it.”