Kelty was the father of an old friend. Wehner had asked him to get in touch with a man named John Lewis,an Indianapolis attorney who Wehner believed was IndyCar's director of marketing.
"He said he needed someone in the Midwest that could act as a go-between for me to make contacts and negotiate with the Indy Racing League," Kelty said.
"So I started searching around for John Lewis, but there wasn't any John Lewis with a law firm in Indy. So Steven Wehner had no idea what he was talking about."
Wehner would explain in a legal filing that "based on an Internet search" he had "concluded — erroneously — that John Lewis at the IRL was the same person who was a member of the Lewis & Wilkins law firm in Springfield."
Kelty excused himself from the meeting and did not return for 15 minutes.
In the conference room, a shaken Wehner began the pitch himself. The IndyCar team was impressed by what he had to say.
The IndyCar series had just merged with the rival Champ Car series, a deal intended to end years of acrimonious competition and help to expand open-wheel racing in North America. IndyCar officials were looking to establish a new market in the Mid-Atlantic, and Baltimore, with its scenic harbor, international airport and proximity to Washington and Philadelphia, might fill the bill.
Moreover, officials at the Richmond International Raceway in Virginia had been signaling that they were about to yank the IndyCar race there.
Richmond track officials had introduced open-wheel racing on the D-shaped loop in 2001 in the hope of developing interest among NASCAR fans. But an audience accustomed to watching boxy stock cars bump and jostle around the track found IndyCar racing dull.
A race through the streets of Baltimore — a better venue to show off Indy's sleek cars —could fill a key gap in the series.
Terry Angstadt, the president of IndyCar's commercial division, was impressed with Wehner's work: "I've not seen a group do better research and homework."
Wehner and Kelty would later sue each other, alleging deceit and lack of payment. The claims were eventually settled out of court.
Despite the confusion, Kelty's trip to Belle Isle did bring an unexpected gift to Wehner — and one that might have clinched the deal for Baltimore.
Kelty was leaving his hotel room when his son pointed out two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Al Unser Jr. passing by in a parking lot.
Kelty told Unser about the Baltimore plan. Unser, who had spent long stretches in the city while his daughter was being treated at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, joined the team within weeks.
The Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix that the Baltimore delegation attended turned out to be the last. Organizers postponed the race in 2009 and again in 2010. It was losing money.
A mixed record
Most races lose money in their first one to three years, according to industry officials. IndyCar builds its schedule around a group of cities, notably Long Beach, Calif., and St. Petersburg, Fla., that have established successful annual events.
Other cities have flirted with street racing, only to see plans fall apart when the rubber met the road.
San Jose, Calif., gave a $4 million subsidy to organizers of the San Jose Grand Prix in the hope that the downtown street race would be a fixture for years to come. It folded in 2007, after three years.