"I can relate to it," he says.

He couldn't believe his good fortune when a road race landed an hour from his house. He drove up to Baltimore a few weeks ago to walk the course with his wife.

It's a ritual "gearheads" have shared in the last month.

A grin lit Nicaise's face when he drove downtown recently and saw the walls and barriers going up along the race route.

"I actually drove the course," he says sheepishly. "I couldn't help myself."

Nicaise has brought his passion to his day job.

Though he is hopelessly in love with racecars, he knows that most clients of his company, computer and technology reseller CDW, are not. Nonetheless, he has found that customers love to interact with drivers and get up-close looks at how the exotic cars are put together. At the Grand Prix, CDW will sponsor a tent in conjunction with KV Racing and driver Takuma Sato.

"The access is great for our customers," he says. "We don't get that when we do things at Orioles and Ravens games. You can't sit on the bench at Camden Yards."

"I don't think people realize how big an event this is going to be for Baltimore," Nicaise says.

Steve Morgan of Parkton is a racing fan who has traveled to Delaware to watch NASCAR, but he puts himself in a more casual class than Nicaise or Hasychak. That did not stop him from snapping up a 12th-floor suite in the Renaissance hotel as soon as the Grand Prix was confirmed. He plans to entertain insurance clients in the space, which overlooks the race course.

"I'm not a fanatic, but I'm definitely looking forward to this," Morgan says. "I never remotely expected it. You watch road races in all these majestic, international cities and you don't think of Baltimore. This is something totally new for us."

He knows NASCAR fans around the area but isn't sure how the region will receive the open-wheel IndyCar style. "This will be a learning experience to see how they carry it off," Morgan says. "It'll be interesting to see what it turns into."

Many casual fans will congregate around the 80 hospitality suites organizers have sold to businesses.

Merritt Properties LLC, a Baltimore-based commercial real estate developer and landlord, signed up for a level of sponsorship that includes a 20-seat hospitality suite where the company will host business partners, contractors and firms that lease office space.

"It's really important for the business community to get behind this effort," says Scott Dorsey, Merritt's chief executive officer.

That means not only showing off company names and slogans but showing up in person.

"We'll end up with some tickets and can watch the race, and are planning on taking clients and business partners and enjoying what the race has to offer," Dorsey says. "We'll have a nice view of the pit lane and some turns."

M&T Bank, the first bank to sign up as a sponsor, will have a hospitality tent at Pratt and Light streets.

"I'll be there, and we've invited some of our better clients to share the event," says Mike Pinto, vice chairman of M&T and chairman and chief executive officer of the company's Mid-Atlantic division. "I've never been to a car race, especially a city car race, so I am looking forward to it."

Baltimore Sun reporter Lorraine Mirabella contributed to this article.