Saturday Special: Pumpelly's 'Dream' Circuit
Fresh out of college and living on his own for the first time, Spencer Pumpelly would drive through the Baltimore Inner Harbor area daily commuting to work in 1997. As an aspiring road racer, he thought the area would be ideal for a street circuit.
He even found a map of Baltimore and laid out a prospective course.
All these years later, the 2.02-mile Inner Harbor Street Course that Pumpelly will race on today in the Grand Prix of Baltimore is very similar to his imaginary circuit. The No. 45 Venezuela/eSilicon Porsche911 GT3 Cup, co-driven by Pumpelly and Nelson Canache Jr., will start second today in the GTC class as the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón runs for the sixth time this season.
“This track is around 90 percent of what I had envisioned,” said Pumpelly. “The biggest differences are that I had them going in the opposite direction, and didn’t have the U-turn on Center Street.”
Then a 22-year-old graduate, Pumpelly found a job in the service department at a marina in Statesville, Md. He lived with a few of his college buddies who also found jobs in the Baltimore area at a house on Center Street in the Mount Vernon neighborhood – about 10 blocks north of the Inner Harbor. While many of his weekends were spent pursuing his racing career, during the week he dreamed of competing near his new home.
“To get to Stevensville, I would drive through this area and back every day,” Pumpelly said. “I kept thinking this would be a really great place to have a street course. You couldn’t go to Google Maps back then, so I found a map in the opening pages of the phone book and drew a track they could race around, pit road and everything. Sure enough, somebody decided to do it.”
Eventually Pumpelly moved to the Atlanta area – but he does get to look back to his past when he returns to race in Baltimore.
“I had a good time here and will always feel a special connection to Baltimore,” he said. “This is far from a typical race, where it’s just me. This weekend, [my wife] Lindsay and son Ryder came here early and got to spend time with my family. We’ll have more than 15 guests here to support me. That’s a little extra pressure on me. I always want to win, but I don’t want to disappoint them.”