Last year, the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix made news when it was announced it was moving its annual IndyCar Series race weekend to downtown Detroit after over three decades at Belle Isle. To dive into details behind Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix’s Return to the Streets of Downtown, Bud Denker, President of Penske Corporation, took the stage before having a conversation with Tammy Carnrike, Chief Operating Officer at the Detroit Regional Chamber.
Now one of 13 races that will take place in a downtown street environment, the June 2-4 race will stretch nearly two miles around Jefferson St. and the Renaissance Center and will include a rare dual pitlane, already being built near the Blue Cross Blue Shield building. The new circuit is also partially based on the original Detroit street circuit used by Formula One and CART. According to Denker, this revised route will create minimal – if any – disruption for businesses downtown.
“It’s all going to happen all around you, instead of down the way like at Belle Isle,” Denker said, who specifically mentioned the significance of the new circuit length. “Cars are going to go by hundreds of times, not just 70.”
Further, the Grand Prix team prioritized having the event more accessible to residents and tourists alike. As a result, much of the event’s activities are complimentary, including the temporary bridge towering above the racetrack on Jefferson St. and the “rooftop party area” at Hart Plaza. Plus, Denker said the audience-driven set-up also excites the Grand Prix drivers.
“Inclusiveness was one of the biggest decisions to move from Belle Isle, which was very exclusive. Only one-fourth of that racetrack was open for public viewing.” Denker said. “[Downtown is] different. We’re a massive area…[plus,] the drivers love the vibe of a downtown event. They feel the energy from the people being so close.”
After discussing the estimated $75 million of economic benefit to come from the Grand Prix, Denker asks of just one thing from the Detroit area: come on down and participate in the event, even if it is just the free parts.
“Walk the riverfront, explore the bars. This city will look like a grand prix festival, not a race,” he said in closing. “There’s a big difference between an event and just a race. We’re going to have an event.”