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Turnout swells for rain-delayed Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — Fans began lining up before gates opened at 9 a.m. Monday for the delayed finale of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

After a day's delay because of rain, the race began at 10 a.m.

Crowds were sparse for the early part of this unusual workday race, with a few hundred in the stands minutes before the start. But by noon, hundreds more had joined them, filling the main grandstand.

Many of them were drawn by the free admission, even for reserved grandstand seating.

They included Patrick Swift, 43, who said this was his first Grand Prix. "I'm here just because it's free,'' he said.

Tony Barrett of Clearwater was there Sunday when the race was called off due to rain. He returned Monday because he heard it was "supposed to clear up.''

Katie O'Connor, 4, watched as the cars raced past her family. She kept a lookout for Danica Patrick's car, pointing and cheering from her grandmother's arms as she passed.

"I like her," she told her mother, Jen O'Connor, a teacher from Pembroke Pines. They were at the race with her parents, Marcia and Mike Smith of St. Petersburg.

Marcia said she hasn't missed a Grand Prix since its start. She took her children to the race when they grew up and volunteered with her husband.

"This was going to be our first year to miss," she said, but they couldn't pass it up with the promise of free admission.

Crews were out early moving standing water off the course after a heavy predawn downpour Monday.

Those who sat in grandstand seats were asked to be respectful of anyone who showed up.

The city encouraged fans to park in the BayWalk garage at Second Street between First and Second avenues N, or the South Core Parking Garage, with entry from First Avenue S between First and Second streets. Although the race was free, daily rates applied in the parking garages.

Turnout swells for rain-delayed Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg 03/29/10 [Last modified: Monday, March 29, 2010 2:39pm]
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