"My whole thing with the Grand Prix, I'm so sick of Baltimore getting dirted, I say 'Take a look at this,` world.'"
As Wehner sketched out his plan, he sought advice — and money — from his contacts on Martha's Vineyard. He tapped an old friend, graphic designer Elizabeth Roman Davidson, a Roland Park Country School grad who had also lived on the Vineyard, to give his reports and letters a sleek, professional touch.
But in the spring of 2008, Wehner's most important backer was a retired General Electric executive descended from the 19th-century newspaper editor and politician Horace Greeley. Wehner had met Roger Greeley, an avid racing fan, through his repair shop.
From his hillside mansion on the Vineyard, Roger Greeley, an avid racing fan, sent Wehner five-figure checks nearly every month — seed money to start the company, Wehner says.
With interest from Mitchell and Cole, Wehner's dream was starting to take shape. He filed papers in April 2008 to formally incorporate Baltimore Racing Development as a company. Its address: his mother's home, where he continued to live in the basement.
Two months later, Wehner scored a significant win — letters of support from Mayor Sheila Dixon, then-Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Cole, with promises that the city was in talks with no other group about an Indy race.
Dixon says she maintained serious reservations about a street race alongside the Inner Harbor.
"I thought there were better things we needed to do with our money than have a car race down Pratt Street," she said.
She says she agreed to sign the letter of intent — which promised no financial commitment — at the urging of Cole and Rawlings-Blake.
"Bill Cole was really trying to push this, and then Stephanie was pushing it for him," Dixon recalled. "I was like, 'We'll look.'"
Cole said he was still not convinced the idea could work. But he figured there was no harm in giving Wehner the green light, as long as the city was not risking any money.
"At this point in time, he's asking for nothing other than the ability to prove the IZOD IndyCar series wants to come to Baltimore," Cole said. "All he wants to do is talk to the IndyCar series, and if [they're] interested, he wants to start negotiating."
But the letters of intent were enough to catch the attention of IndyCar officials.
On Labor Day weekend 2008, Wehner, the Davidsons and a Midwest attorney headed to Detroit to see a race and meet for the first time with racing executives
The weekend on Belle Isle, an island in the Detroit River that was home to the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, was nearly derailed by a case of mistaken identity. But by chance, the delegation would stumble upon a driving legend and make a connection that would speed the Baltimore Grand Prix to the finish line.
A lucky meeting
Where was he?
Wehner looked around the Belle Isle conference room. After years of preparations, he found himself at last in the company of IndyCar's top officials. The team from Baltimore and Martha's Vineyard were there, but Thomas Kelty, the lawyer Wehner had asked to run the meeting, was missing.