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Faceoff

Is the Grand Prix worthwhile for St. Petersburg?

By Times staff writers
Published April 2, 2006


HEY, IF ESPN IS HERE, THEN IT MUST BE BIG AND GOOD

The four most glorious letters in all of sports will televise live from St. Petersburg today.

Yes, folks, ESPN is here.

Sure, the network comes to town from time to time for regular-season baseball, but in terms of the "Big Event," well, the World Series isn't likely to be played here any time soon. And that Final Four here is a distant memory. So for now, the Grand Prix is the best the city has. Besides, unlike basketball and baseball, it's outdoors, all sunshine and palm trees, which look great on TV.

Admittedly, other than female phenom Danica Patrick, folks around here know little about IndyCar.

But how can you go wrong with drivers traveling 170 mph jockeying for position on the bayside street course?

Plus, you might even meet actor Ashley Judd, wife of driver Dario Franchitti. (Or, for those those so inclined, we hear Greys Anatomy's Patrick Dempsey may attend).

Regardless, tens of thousands of Floridians will descend from I-4 and I-75, spending money to watch a sport not quite as big as NASCAR.

And if you're still feeling lukewarm about the race, just remember ESPN believes it's a big deal.

Shouldn't we?

- BRIAN SUMERS

GIVE ME JUNIOR, BIG FOOT OVER WHAT'STHEIRNAMES

I challenge you to name three drivers at this weekend's Grand Prix who haven't been in an FHM spread.

Here, I'll give you one: Vitor Meira (he's from Brazil).

All right, name two more and drinks are free at the Pier.

Oh, wait, can't get to the Pier because there's too much traffic because of, uh, the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, in which you can't name three drivers who haven't appeared in an FHM spread.

Is St. Petersburg making decent money on this thing? Could it make more hosting something else, like say a Superbowl of Motorsports, which, by the way, averages more fans than the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg? Depending on which race official you talk to, it's anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 for the weekend; it seems folks are afraid to reveal a precise number because it will be low and make them look bad.

Give me NASCAR!

Bet you can name a whole bunch of those guys.

Or, give me Big Foot crushing cars with its huge tires. At least you might have heard of the truck.

For those who sense what I'm getting at, which probably means you know nothing about Grand Prix racing other than it ties up roads, the person in the FHM spread was Danica Patrick.

- SCOTT PURKS