Jun 2, 2014, 12:30 PM EST
Say what you will about Long Beach being North America’s marquee street race – for my money, it’s still a personal favorite and the gold standard for street race operations – but Detroit’s getting pretty close to usurping that “gold standard” title after just three years since coming back on the schedule in 2012.
For the second consecutive year (I wasn’t on site in 2012, so I can’t properly comment on that year), everything about the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix weekend on Belle Isle Park, run to near perfection by Roger Penske’s organization and with Bud Denker leading the on-site staff’s efforts, ran like clockwork.
The track flows in such a way that once you’re inside, everything runs in close proximity. The paddock is just behind pit lane and covers all four series that were in action – the Verizon IndyCar Series, TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, Pirelli World Challenge and SPEED Energy Stadium Super Trucks. Victory Lane and the media center are just next to the paddocks, which reduces a lot of unnecessary time spent going back-and-forth to get where you need to go.
The fan zone here is laid out in grand, open style, with a mix of vendors, booths, food options, family friendly activities and a giant concert stage – put onto great effect with Lifehouse and Shaggy performing on the two weekend days. Rising singing star Anna de Ferran, daughter of former Indianapolis 500 and CART champion Gil, also performed during the weekend.
Where this race really nails it is on the corporate side. Penske’s organization focuses heavily on the corporate suite side of things and works effortlessly to ensure the suites get sold out. The Shinola-backed suites were on the outside of the front straight this year, and combined with other corporate chalets, these offered a great vantage point for those clients on site.
The track is transparent with its grandstand numbers. On Friday, Trackside Online reported the numbers, from the track posting, as a total of 15,229 grandstand seats among the five grandstands. It’s not a huge number, but it’s also not the event’s primary focus.
The volunteers go out of their way to be friendly and helpful, almost to a fault. Occasionally you’ll be at an event where volunteers do whatever they can to make your life miserable; not so in Detroit.
As for the weekend on-track? Yes, the course is bumpy but that’s one of its defining characteristics. Denker confirmed at Thursday’s media lunch that a full-scale repave will occur before 2014 to eliminate some of the rough concrete bits.
It will smooth things out, although Cadillac Pirelli World Challenge driver Johnny O’Connell, who won both races this weekend joked during Sunday’s press conference, “With Detroit being a little bit on the bumpy side, I think that works to our advantage. It was funny, I was talking to Roger Penske and I said, please don’t make this track too nice. A couple of bumps are good for me!”
Chevrolet, too, has committed to the event for another two years, through 2016. Denker confirmed to RACER.com’s Marshall Pruett that next year’s weekend again features a Verizon IndyCar Series doubleheader and the Pirelli World Challenge, while also hoping to confirm the return of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
This was the last of two weekends this year – Long Beach as well – where all three series competed alongside each other on the same card.
For IndyCar, this weekend was once again a showcase of varying strategies, which adds an extra layer of spice and intrigue because you never know which strategist or team will nail it.
You also had the emergence of rivalries in greater doses. The “#IndyRivals” campaign premiered on Sunday and it was rather appropriate that it did, considering Will Power appears to be on a quest to be the new Darth Vader of the paddock.
Perhaps, as I suggested on Twitter right before the end of Sunday’s race, Team Penske should revert his No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet back to the all-black colors it premiered in when Power was a then-unheralded part-time third driver for the team in 2009.
— Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno) June 1, 2014
The Power-Simon Pagenaud battle has enough momentum to where it can be promoted as “the new rivalry.” Power’s had brief encounters with Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon before, after having one with Dario Franchitti for a few years. But now him and Pagenaud are the best at-odds thing to promote.
It’s a good thing for the sport, and Pagenaud’s the likeable underdog as the Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports lacks the resources of a Penske, or a Ganassi, or an Andretti Autosport, but still brings the fight and the bark on every weekend.
Penske and GM ruled the weekend, but those on site will once again attest this was another first-class event through and through. Kudos to all who made it happen.
Jan 30, 2015, 5:02 AM EST
After a disastrous 2014, Sauber aims to hit back this year with a new image and two new drivers.
Jan 29, 2015, 8:30 PM EST
When he went looking for a new crew chief to replace the soon-to-be departing Steve Letarte, Dale Earnhardt Jr. ultimately didn’t have to look very far.
Jan 29, 2015, 8:00 PM EST
Kasey Kahne looks for success with new crew chief… and another Super Bowl for his Seahawks.
Jan 29, 2015, 7:30 PM EST
Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway was arrested last week and charged with indecent exposure and lewdness.
Jan 29, 2015, 7:09 PM EST
Conor Daly finally set for an IndyCar test this offseason, with SPM.
Jan 29, 2015, 6:33 PM EST
After coming so close last season, Ryan Newman is ready to fight for the Sprint Cup championship in 2015 — and he’s bringing his brass knuckles to give him a hand.
Jan 29, 2015, 6:01 PM EST
Car owner Rick Hendrick said he consulted with Jeff Gordon about if to retire the No. 24 after this season.
Jan 29, 2015, 5:42 PM EST
One week after announcing he was retiring after the 2015 season, Jeff Gordon told NASCAR America that he wants to win his final Daytona 500 and also walk away with his fifth career Sprint Cup championship.
Jan 29, 2015, 4:42 PM EST
IndyCar’s Brasilia, Brazil race set for March 8 has been canceled.
Jan 29, 2015, 4:35 PM EST
Jimmie Johnson will again embark on a quest for his seventh Cup title, but he acknowledged and embraced Thursday he’s not the story at Hendrick Motorsports for 2015.
Rick Hendrick: No pressure on Jeff Gordon in final season, he just has to win 14 races and championship
Jan 29, 2015, 4:12 PM EST
There’s nothing like putting a little pressure on a guy, especially in his final season. Team owner Rick Hendrick expects Jeff Gordon to win 14 races and the championship in 2015!
Jan 29, 2015, 4:00 PM EST
Today’s NASCAR AMERICA runs for an hour and has a heavy No. 24 theme.
Jan 29, 2015, 3:15 PM EST
Ganassi, Sabates praise McMurray’s start to 2015.
Jan 29, 2015, 2:41 PM EST
Although he grew up a Jeff Gordon fan and was counseled by Gordon on his future, Kyle Larson will watch someone else drive the No. 24.
Jan 29, 2015, 2:35 PM EST
Fresh off a team win in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Kyle Larson not only is keeping time better, he says it’s also time to win some races and contend for the Sprint Cup championship in 2015.
Jan 29, 2015, 1:52 PM EST
The 2014 Xfinity Series champion is announced as Jeff Gordon’s successor a day before his father, Bill Elliott, is inducted in the Hall of Fame.
Jan 29, 2015, 1:00 PM EST
British youngster will combine this role with a full season in GP2 with DAMS.
Jan 29, 2015, 12:10 PM EST
The 2014 Xfinity Series champion will make his Sprint Cup debut in March before moving full time to NASCAR’s premier series in 2016.
Video from NASCAR America
- Sauber aims to beat the blues of 2014 with C34’s launch 0
- Track executive arrested, charged with lewdness with 19-year-old 0
- Why Hendrick won’t retire the No. 24 6
- Brasilia IndyCar race is canceled 3
- Rick Hendrick: No pressure on Jeff Gordon in final season, he just has to win 14 races and championship 4
- Column: Chase Elliott’s promotion perfectly timed for NASCAR 11
- Chase Elliott will replace Jeff Gordon as No. 24 driver next season 5