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Free Admission helps fill IndyCar stands UPDATE City estimates increase in Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg attendance: City of St. Petersburg officials are "extremely pleased" with attendance of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg despite an extra day of activity to contest the thunderstorm-delayed IZOD IndyCar Series event.

"The city's Police, Fire and Special Events staff are taking a look at the daily crowd estimates for the four days of the event and have not released a figure yet," said city Grand Prix Coordinator Kevin Dunn. "We are confident with the additional day of racing we met or exceeded the city-estimated attendance of 160,000 from last year."

City storm water crews began work early Monday, clearing the track of standing water to make it suitable for racing. Dunn credits the exceptional efforts by city departments, the Grand Prix and Indy Racing League officials, to give the race the green flag.

City officials originally estimated downtown streets affected by the race would be back to normal by April 9, with all other areas open by April 18. Because of the unusual circumstances, motorists and pedestrians could see scheduled road re-openings delayed up to 24 hours. Crews are also optimistic about meeting the previously scheduled reopening of the airport runway on April 1.

03/29/10 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. TampaBay.com

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