St. Petersburg Grand Prix ends with a record number of attendees

Thousands attend St. Pete Grand Prix

ST. PETERSBURG - This weekend, the city of St. Petersburg was taken over by 125,000 racing fans from all over the world.

Gary Denney made the trip from Indiana -- the home of Indy car racing.

"When I hear the cars start up, my blood pressure goes up and my heart rate goes up," said Denney.

Race organizers said they hope that after the three days of racing have ended, St. Petersburg will leave a mark in their minds.

"We are a vibrant community with world class sporting events, world class museums and world class events," said Tim Ramsberger, one of the organizers of the Grand Prix.  He hopes the race helps introduce that community to some who might not otherwise have made the trip.

Denney said he will be back.  He stayed downtown just feet away from the race track, and said his morning wake up call was a race fan's dream come true.

"We could hear the cars starting up every morning," he said.  "Instantly I wanted to come to the track."

City leaders said the Grand Prix is one of the city's best events. The track engulfs a major part of downtown St. Petersburg.

"It is a huge economic boost for St. Pete," said city council member Wengay Newton.

At the race, many local businesses set up booths to sell and showcase their products.  Russell Deberry sells fresh fruit and veggies to racegoers, which is something of a novelty near the racetrack.

"People come up and they buy. They are glad to see a booth that sells fresh food," said Deberry.

But, ultimately it is the Grand Prix that hooks many in to the area.

"You can get so close to the races and being able to stand by the fence up close is just so exciting," said Larry Waterman, who liked the race so much he came back for the second year in a row -- all the way from England.

"You can't imagine just the excitement and the speeds and just the noise and sounds of the race without being here. It is exhilarating," he said.  "It is brilliant."

Waterman, like many others, said the sounds and sights will keep him coming back for years to come.

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