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Souvenirs move quickly, not just for CART drivers

More than shirts can be had, too: Bikini tops, earplugs, and autographed replica helmets are available.


© St. Petersburg Times, published February 22, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG -- There were few places to escape the heat for racing fans attending the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Friday, but Vera Wells of Brooksville found one: inside the dressing room of Prime Time Racing's clothing and souvenir trailer.

Wells emerged a few minutes later wearing one of the company's $30 checkered-flag style underwire bikini tops, visibly relieved that she had found a way to cool off.

"It's nice and cool. I had to buy something that was airy," Wells said. "I had a tank top on, and it was just too much."

Whatever their racing pleasure -- be it foreign sports cars or '57 Chevys -- fans can find something bearing the likeness of their favorite cars to buy at the Grand Prix.

Beyond those hawking official Grand Prix and CART merchandise, more than a dozen souvenir stands are set up for this weekend's events, with items ranging from $2 earplugs to a $3,750 replica helmet autographed by five-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher.

"Everybody has their own niche," said Steve Joyce of Prime Time Racing, who reports that his checkered swimsuits (from a triangle top with thong to the far less racy one-piece with wrap) are among his biggest sellers at a variety of racetracks, from CART to NASCAR to Indy Racing League events.

Next door, Speedgear Authentic Racewear sells plenty of Ferrari caps and shirts and Formula One gear.

Speedgear also offers the Schumacher helmet, a copy of one he wore during his 2000 championship season. Lest one think nobody would spend such big bucks at a race, the company sold a $4,500 Schumacher at a race in California last year.

CART merchandise actually is overshadowed by some other items. Michael Andretti left CART for the IRL after last season, but his large, slickly merchandised Andretti Signature souvenir trailer had one of the more prominent spots near the grandstands.

And his items come with an actual signature for fans who timed it properly. He drew a healthy crowd signing fans' purchases, and is scheduled to appear again today around noon.

For another kind of autograph, art enthusiasts can purchase framed and unframed prints by racing artist Randy Owens, whose colorful serigraphs depict races at venues around the country.

Included in the collection are two types of prints bearing his signature that commemorate the 2003 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg ($150 unframed).

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