Skip to content

Detroit Grand Prix delivers another dynamic event weekend

Jun 2, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

Detroit2014Wkd Getty Images

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.

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.

Latest Posts
  1. MRTI: Championships to be decided in trio of Sonoma doubleheaders

    Aug 21, 2014, 5:33 PM EDT

    MazdaRoadToIndy

    Mazda Road to Indy titles will be decided in Sonoma this weekend.

  2. Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson pace NNS practices; Milka Duno seeks to become first Latina to qualify for a NASCAR event

    Aug 21, 2014, 5:29 PM EDT

    Milka Duno. (Photo: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson topped Thursday afternoon’s pair of Nationwide Series practice sessions at Bristol Motor Speedway.

  3. Latest edition of the Penske Files: You wanted more bloopers, you’ve got ‘em!

    Aug 21, 2014, 4:06 PM EDT

    penske file bloopers 8-21-2014

    After the popularity of the team’s drivers, the next most popular thing around Team Penske is The Penske Files, especially editions that contain bloopers. Check out the latest edition of TPF bloopers!

  4. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA at 6:30 p.m. ET — Steve Letarte, Tennessee racing history, Truck race highlights

    Aug 21, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT

    140821-NASCAR-AMERICA

    Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, which airs LIVE at 6:30 pm ET, will cover a lot of ground, including Dale Earnhardt Jr. crew chief (and future NASCAR on NBC analyst) Steve Letarte, breaking down and the history of Bristol Motor Speedway and lots more.

  5. Sochi street circuit approved ahead of Russian GP

    Aug 21, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    A Russian Time GP2 car drives at the newly opened Sochi International Street Circuit in Sochi Reuters

    Russian Grand Prix set to be held in Sochi in six weeks’ time after the track is given a license.

  6. Off The Grid: Budapest – Our favorite city on the F1 calendar (VIDEO)

    Aug 21, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT

    Budapest

    Catch this sneak preview of Off The Grid: Budapest ahead of tomorrow’s premiere.

  7. Spa provides a poignant reminder that F1 must remember its roots

    Aug 21, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Practice Getty Images

    As impressive as many of F1’s new builds are, we must remember the likes of Spa and Monza when looking to the future of the sport.

  8. Alonso targeting third place in both F1 championships

    Aug 21, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Great Britain - Qualifying Getty Images

    Ferrari’s lead driver has high hopes for the second half of the season.

  9. MotorSportsTalk’s Predictions: Belgian GP

    Aug 21, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Previews Getty Images

    The MST writing team makes its predictions ahead of this weekend’s race at Spa.

  10. After 62 starts, Brad Keselowski finally earns first career Trucks win at Bristol

    Aug 21, 2014, 11:45 AM EDT

    (Photo: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Hard as it may seem to believe, Brad Keselowski had never won a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in his career. That was before Thursday’s UNOH 200 at Bristol, where Keselowski dominated en route to the checkered flag.

  11. Bottas confident Williams is yet to reach its peak

    Aug 21, 2014, 11:35 AM EDT

    Germany F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    Finnish driver yet to be confirmed at Williams for 2015, but sees no reason to look elsewhere for a seat.

  12. F1, IndyCar, Red Bull GRC highlight jam-packed motorsports weekend on networks of NBC

    Aug 21, 2014, 11:20 AM EDT

    nbcsports1 (1)

    All your TV times for F1, IndyCar, Red Bull Global Rallycross and more for this weekend’s motorsports action across NBC, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.

  13. Alexander Rossi to make F1 debut in Belgium, replaces Chilton

    Aug 21, 2014, 10:51 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Hungary - Practice Getty Images

    Chilton benched whilst his contractual issues are resolved, allowing Rossi to become the first American since Scott Speed in 2007 to race in a grand prix.

  14. Postponed Camping World Trucks race underway at Bristol

    Aug 21, 2014, 10:17 AM EDT

    Bristol motor speedway logo

    The rescheduled UNOH 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway is underway Thursday morning.

  15. Lotterer warns not to expect too much from his F1 debut

    Aug 21, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    Le Mans 24h Race Getty Images

    Three-time Le Mans winner to make his F1 debut with Caterham this weekend at the Belgian Grand Prix.

  16. Sutil: Verstappen is a risky choice for Toro Rosso

    Aug 21, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    F1 Testing At Silverstone - Day One Getty Images

    Sauber driver is open to the idea of a 17-year-old racing in F1, and hopes to be on the grid with him next season.

  17. Lotterer debut a refreshing tonic for F1, Caterham

    Aug 21, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Great Britain - Practice Getty Images

    Compared to F1 hopefuls and/or retreads, seeing a relative outsider in Andre Lotterer make his debut this weekend is a welcome change of pace.

  18. 2014 Belgian Grand Prix Preview

    Aug 21, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Race Getty Images

    After a three-week summer break, what better way to welcome Formula 1 back than with the Belgian Grand Prix?

  19. Rain postpones Bristol Trucks race to Thursday morning

    Aug 20, 2014, 10:11 PM EDT

    bristol rain Getty Images

    Wednesday’s UNOH 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway has been postponed due to heavy rain and lightning. The race has been rescheduled to 10 am ET on Thursday morning, weather permitting.

  20. Start of Trucks race at Bristol under rain delay

    Aug 20, 2014, 8:52 PM EDT

    Bristol motor speedway logo

    Heavy rain showers coupled with occasional lightning are delaying Wednesday’s UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Video from NASCAR America

Jimmie Johnson must pick up the pace
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. Gordon (1573)
  2. K. Harvick (1258)
  3. K. Busch (1113)
  4. I. Vences (1099)
  5. T. Stewart (1042)