Now that Baltimore's debut Grand Prix is just days away, the trash talk is revving up by the hour. And that's not counting the race car drivers.
Nope, the motormouths trading good-natured insults are the fans who will watch the races up close and personal in the grandstands, and the fans who will view the proceedings from the air-conditioned comfort of a luxury penthouse suite.
"You can tell the people in the penthouses that we'll wave up at them from the pits," says Lori Moore, 39, of Parkville.
"I want to be down in the thick of it. I want to wear earplugs and be screaming at people. I want to smell the engines and cheer and boo and feel the cars drive past you. Watching the race from the 23rd floor would be no different from watching it on television. They can stay clean and enjoy their cocktails."
Race organizers estimate the three-day attendance for the inaugural event at between 100,000 and 200,000, and say it could generate about $70 million in economic impact.
The Grand Prix is expected to appeal to a wide swathe of racing enthusiasts. A fan who can afford to pledge $50,000 to rent out the Maryland Science Center for the weekend will descend on the Inner Harbor alongside a fan for whom a $65 ticket for a reserved seat in the grandstands is a special-occasion splurge.
On Saturday, the Moores will be sharing approximately the same city block as developer Edward St. John, who is renting a small flotilla to ferry about 600 guests to the science center, complete with on-board historians to point out local landmarks.
And, it's fair to say that the two viewing experiences couldn't be more different.
Jerry Wit, a senior vice president at St. John's firm, St. John Properties, likened the experience to those of Baltimore Ravens fans who watch the game from the stands and those who view the on-field action from the skybox.
"Personally, having sat once in the skybox, I will always sit in the skybox," Wit said. "Once you've had that experience, you can't go back."
He began to tick off the advantages of the science center location.
"We'll have air conditioning. We can bring in hot food and drinks. And when our guests get tired of watching the race, they can screen an Imax movie featuring Mario Andretti."
Then he added the piece de resistance:
"We'll even have flush toilets."
Tim Smith of Westminster thinks it's a sad state of affairs if the machinery that most excites the science center guests is the plumbing.
Smith, the finance and insurance manager for Bob's BMW Motorcycles in Jessup, has loved race cars ever since he first toddled away from his stroller while visiting his grandfather outside Philadelphia. A next-door neighbor raced on a quarter-mile dirt track on Pennsylvania's Grandview Speedway, and as a treat, he sometimes allowed the little boy to touch his car.
"A good grandstand ticket is better than any corporate suite can be," Smith said. "If you're on the 26th floor, how are you going to get a glimpse of Danica Patrick?"
Smith will make his way down to the Inner Harbor by 6 a.m. Friday, and stay long enough to run in the 5K race at 7 p.m. being sponsored by the Grand Prix. He'll return on Sunday with his wife and young son, and can't wait to see the look on 2-year-old Lane's face when the first race car roars down Light Street at upward of 170 miles an hour.
"It wouldn't be the same," Smith said, "if he had to look through a plate glass window."