Roger Penske looked out his window in the Hyatt Hotel at the Inner Harbor and didn't believe was he was seeing.
It was Saturday and the grandstands along the Baltimore Grand Prix course were packed solid with fans.
"I was amazed at the turnout," said the owner of Team Penske. "To see huge crowds like that on a Friday and a Saturday shows this event has great potential."
Penske, sitting in the team trailer and waiting for the racing to begin Sunday morning, was ebullient for a team owner who just watched his premier driver's car sheared by a flying competitor during morning practice. Tony Kanaan lost his brakes and soared over Helio Castroneves' car at the turn onto Pratt Street at about 8:45 a.m., badly scraping the right side. Neither driver was injured.
"Happens all the time," Penske said, with a dismissive wave of his hand. "We're fine."
Penske was generous with his praise -- for the beauty of the city, the quality of the course, the work of the organizers, police and volunteers and for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
"To be able to walk four of five minutes from your hotel to the track. To be able to stay inside the track. I am impressed. It is all well done."
Penske attributed the success of the ticket sales to the fact that the race was held at the heart of Baltimore's sports complexes Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadiums. He went to an Orioles game Thursday afternoon with his crew, as a matter of fact.
"These fans know this area. They are here for all sorts of other events. They don't have to find their way to us."
Tim Cindric, president of Team Penske, said the fans in the paddock demonstrated a healthy knowledge of Indy car racing.
"We're most impressed with the knowledge base there is of our sport," he said.
"For a first-time event, this was impressive. This race has great potential," concluded Penske. "And it is going to create tremendous added value to the city."
-- Susan Reimer