BALTIMORE, Md. (CBSDC) – The Grand Prix is underway in Baltimore with hundreds of thousands of people expected to converge on the city’s Inner Harbor.

Indy Cars will be jetting through the streets of downtown Baltimore all weekend. Gates opened Friday morning at 7:30 and festivities will continue through Sunday. The Grand Prix of Baltimore, part of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series and American LeMans Series,  is in its second year in Charm City.

Aside from restaurants and retail stores, the entire city shuts down for fans primed to see engines race down Pratt Street and wind through Federal Hill. The race drew over 150,000 people in 2011.

The only challenge with the race is traffic. The Baltimore beltway can jam up and the backup can stretch to I-95 and even the Capital Beltway.

And how do the race car drivers feel about speeding past buildings through one of the most historic cities in America?

“I love the track,” Gustavo Yacaman tells CBS Baltimore. “I love jumping over the railroads, and you know the scene is just great.”

123717166 Baltimore Charmed by Second Annual Grand Prix

Dario Franchitti pits his #10 Honda during the IZOD IndyCar Series Baltimore Grand Prix on September 4, 2011 in Baltimore. (Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Helio Castroneves says it’s a unique place.

“It’s bumpy, it’s challenging. But it’s fun at the same time when you get it right.”

It’s understandable that it can be pretty tough to navigate through a metropolitan city at blazing speeds, but the real difficulty belonged to those planning the event. Shutting down and converting city streets into a modern racetrack, while at the same time inviting hundreds of thousands within the city limits can be a daunting task.

“We learned from last year … we know what didn’t work,” Baltimore City Councilman Bill Cole tells CBS Baltimore. “So we have police officers and special traffic enforcement officers strategically located this year.”

Local restaurants saw huge profits last year, and city officials hope to see a bigger boost this year by ending the races closer to dinner time.

Tickets for the Grand Prix of Baltimore start at $15 and can be purchased here.

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