Organizers said they tried to address every major concern. Tow trucks are slated to be on hand to haul away vehicles parked in residential areas without permits. All races are scheduled to end before dark, accommodating residents' requests.

Cole said he never expected to win everyone over.

As the race weekend drew closer, he said, "I just know someone is going to call me at 8:15 on Friday morning and say, 'These cars are loud!' We can't fix that. But I think we've planned for everything else."

Hopkins said Cole and other city leaders misled residents about the extent of traffic disruptions and failed to produce convincing evidence of the race's economic benefits. Challengers to Rawlings-Blake in the Sept. 13 mayoral primary have made similar points.

Many neighbors, however, said they were impressed with the efforts to keep them abreast of race planning. "I told Bill Cole that it was never going to fly if they didn't get the neighbors behind it," Bill Reuter said. "But they've done a good job of at least letting us know what we're up against."

Ridgely's Delight residents educated themselves as well, holding two Grand Prix 101 courses on the second floor of a nearby tavern with help from a former neighbor who went on to write a racing blog.

The Reuters took their quest for information a step further, traveling to St. Petersburg, Fla., for a spring road race to get a sense of what they were in for. They learned that the cars are, in fact, loud. But they were pleasantly surprised by the affluence of the crowd and the festive atmosphere around the track.

"It was fun," Sharon Reuter said. "Like a Preakness feel. Not that crazy, but a party atmosphere."

The Reuters are hosting friends from Florida who are eager to see the race and said that, in general, they know of a lot more people coming in for the event than fleeing it.

Thousands of residents of South Baltimore have bought race tickets, Cole said. Many planned to run in the Grand Prix's 5K foot race on Friday night. In Ridgely's Delight, one resident planned to screen car-themed movies all weekend. In Otterbein, residents planned outdoor barbecues and crab feasts.

Bob Muir, who lives less than two blocks from the Conway Street section of the course, plans to host a cookout in his alley after Sunday's race.

"A lot of people down here like this kind of excitement," he said. "We moved from Howard County 10 years ago because we like the baseball, the football, the symphony, the great restaurants. I think this a great opportunity to showcase the city."

Others in Otterbein spoke of the race creating closer bonds between neighbors.

"People seem to be hunkering down and looking forward to spending the weekend together, which we don't get a chance to do that often," said Daniel Bachmann, president of Otterbein's neighborhood association.

Bachmann works nearby, on the 23rd floor of an office building on East Pratt Street. Despite the expected inconvenience of Friday's commute, he said his office mates were excited about watching the cars whip by below. Some invited clients to share in the viewing.

"I just think it's going to be really cool to see these open-wheel vehicles flying down Pratt Street," he said.

At heart, the residents of Otterbein and Ridgely's Delight consider themselves a resilient bunch. For years, they've dealt with stadium patrons parking in their spaces and urinating in their alleys. They've had to shout over the hum of airplanes carrying advertisements over Ravens games. They simply can't believe that any event will be too much for them to handle.

"I don't think it will be any worse than a big Ravens-Steelers game," Bill Reuter said. "And we get through those just fine."

childs.walker@baltsun.com

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