Jun 2, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
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.
Sep 16, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT
Lajoie will run his first Cup race at New Hampshire, while Justin Boston will drive for Joe Gibbs Racing at Kentucky and Dover in the Nationwide Series.
Sep 16, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT
Will experience or hunger help him capture his 2nd Sprint Cup title? The NASCAR AMERICA gang debates the topic.
Sep 16, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
NBC Sports legal analyst Jack Furlong breaks down what could happen now that a grand jury will decide whether Stewart will face charges for his involvement in the accident that killed sprint car racer Kevin Ward Jr.
Sep 16, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT
The nine-turn Port of Los Angeles circuit will feature the longest joker of the 2014 GRC season.
Sep 16, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
Teams now know what radio messages can and cannot be made heading into this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix.
Sep 16, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT
Also coming up today: What’s more important in winning a Sprint Cup title: Experience or Drive?; rookie phenom Kyle Larson on dealing with the hype; NASCAR pioneer Wendell Scott to be honored next month.
Sep 16, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
The Russian driver will continue his rehab work in Indy after sustaining multiple injuries in a practice crash on Aug. 29 at Auto Club Speedway.
Sep 16, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
The three-time NASCAR champion responds that he intends to “continue to provide my full cooperation.”
Sep 16, 2014, 2:45 PM EDT
OAK Racing to return to FIA WEC for three of last four races.
Sep 16, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT
Sprint Cup driver David Ragan and Camping World Truck Series driver Darrell Wallace Jr. will sport special paint schemes honoring Scott during the Martinsville Chase weekend in October.
Sep 16, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
Videos from the Pirelli World Challenge championship celebration highlight 25 years, and the 25th year (2014) of the championship.
Sep 16, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
All the notes and numbers to keep in mind as NASCAR enters the second race of the Chase’s Challenger Round.
Sep 16, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Reports from Australia peg the season-opening race having posted an A$60 million loss in 2014.
Sep 16, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT
CFH Racing reveals logo and will reveal a part of its 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series program on Wednesday.
Sep 16, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Corvette Racing and Corvette DP teams look for Austin win encore this weekend.
Sep 16, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT
Expect the 100 kg fuel limit to enter the equation this weekend, says Renault’s head of track operations.
Sep 16, 2014, 10:28 AM EDT
Sergio Perez looks to go 4-4 in Singapore scores.
Sep 16, 2014, 9:52 AM EDT
Michael Waltrip and partner Emma Slater look to avoid being eliminated after first dance effort on DWTS.
Sep 15, 2014, 10:54 PM EDT
Tony Stewart is expected to learn later this week if he will not face charges or may be indicted in last month’s Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy. A noted attorney with extensive experience in death and catastrophic injury cases explained to MST the legal process in Stewart’s case.
Sep 15, 2014, 9:36 PM EDT
In his first-ever race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Aric Almirola suffered a blown engine at Chicagoland Speedway for the first time in his three-year career.
Video from NASCAR America
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