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After the dust clears, Grand Prix organizers look forward

Grand Prix of Baltimore organizers hope that by 5 a.m. Tuesday, the Inner Harbor will be back to normal and easy to navigate for commuters.

Workers toiled through the night after race fans went home Sunday to break down the track, clear away the fences and five-ton concrete block anchors, rip up the asphalt paving over the light rail tracks, clean up the entire area and remove the street blockades.

Within a matter of days, there will be no evidence of the immense cacophony of race cars, screaming fans and shouting beer vendors. (Except for that persistent ringing in your ears.)

While fans might reminisce, organizers have no time for that. They’re already looking ahead to next year — and beyond.

J.P. Grant, half of the Race On LLC team, which backed the race financially, said while he thought overall result was “a smashing success this year,” there’s plenty of areas for improvement.

In his mind, the only way to go is up.

“This year, you know, obviously it’s not going to turn a profit,” he said. “We’re hoping to break even in 2013 and be profitable in 2014. We’re looking at 2012 as a baseline. This is the absolute worst case…we had 90 days. You know, you can’t put a wedding on in 90 days.”

To their credit, Race On and Andretti Sports Marketing, the firm that handled promotion, did put on quite the show in a very short amount of time. And they kept their promises that all vendors and taxes would be paid. They didn’t break even this year but they’re not indebted to anyone.

Ticket sales still haven’t been reported — it’s “too early,” Grant said. But the event clearly was not a sellout, and many attendees said they thought the crowds were smaller than last year.

So where is the balance for ticket prices between too expensive and dirt cheap?

“Well, I don’t know,” Grant said.

“We’re going to step back and analyze every aspect of this race,” Grant continued. “We’re going to go through it with a fine-toothed comb and see if we need to tweak pricing one way or another, or if we should look at other outlets to sell tickets.”

Organizers might consider consulting with others not in their immediate circle about where, exactly, to go from here. People interviewed over the entire weekend had great ideas for improving specific things, such as the flow of foot traffic, or additional activities, such as an expanded family zone.

But they also had interesting ideas about the bigger picture. One man, for instance, said Labor Day weekend was not an ideal time for the race. He suggested moving the event to October, when families are settled into a routine with work and school, the weather is more temperate and fewer Baltimoreans are out of town for the holiday. (Although it should be noted the IZOD IndyCar Series typically ends by early October at the latest.)

Any changes would not be made until 2014, however.

“We’re locked in for 2013,” Grant said. “After that, we’ll look to see what different dates might be optimal. But I think we’ve got a good time with Labor Day weekend, and in 2013, I guarantee it’s gonna be better than 2012.”

As stressful as the planning process was, it was clear Grant loved it.

“When we took this [race] on 95 plus days ago, I thought it was something I needed to do [for the city],” he said. “Now it’s something I want to do.”

As Grant walked out of the media room in the Baltimore Convention Center on Sunday evening to catch up with his 19-year-old son, a reporter told him to get some rest — it had been a long weekend.

He looked back, grinned, and said with a wink: “Girl, I haven’t partied like this in a long time.”