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<< Sports >>

Auto Racing / IZOD IndyCar Series

Wednesday, 30 May, 2012 12:30 PM

PREVIEW: IndyCar drivers ready to race on Detroit's Belle Isle next weekend

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

An overview of the 2008 Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle. The IZOD IndyCar series returns to the Motor City, June 1 - 3.

 

by Jason Rzucidlo
americajr@americajr.com

 

|

DETROIT -- The IZOD IndyCar series is returning to downtown Detroit for the first time in four years. Belle Isle will once again be filled with race fans over the weekend of June 1 – 3. It is being made possible by the hard work and dedication of team owner and Motor City ambassador Roger Penske. The weekend also includes a Firestone Indy Lights race, a GRAND-AM Rolex Series race and a Pirelli World Challenge Series race. I spoke with 10 IndyCar and Indy Lights drivers to get their early predictions on returning to Detroit.

“I’ve never actually raced at Detroit,“ said Mike Conway, driver of the No. 14 Honda IndyCar. “It’s going to be right after Indy. It’s going to be cool to go back there and see what it’s all about. I used to enjoy watching it on TV. It used to be a real eye-opener how bumpy it is over there. I think all of the drivers are looking forward to getting on track.“

Chevrolet is the lead sponsor of the 2012 Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. Drivers will be able to see the Renaissance Center, GM's World Headquarters, as they make their laps around the 2.1-mile track.

“I raced at Belle Isle twice when we used to go there,“ said Ed Carpenter, driver of the No. 20 Chevrolet IndyCar. “It’s a neat place. Belle Isle in itself is pretty cool. In the past, it’s one of the street circuits that I’ve liked more than others. I’m excited we’re going back, especially as part of Team Chevy.“

Dario Franchitti will be coming into the Motor City race with some early momentum after winning today's Indianapolis 500 race.

“I’ve never been in Detroit for the race yet,“ said Simona de Silvestro, driver of the No. 78 Lotus IndyCar. “But I’ve heard it’s a really cool race track. I’m excited to see how it is.“

Over $6 million in improvements have been made to the raceway at Belle Isle since 2007. That includes over 460,000 square feet of concrete for paddock area and fan interaction, installing 150,000 square feet of new concrete to the road course, repairing damaged lighting and drainage, renovation of the Scott Fountain and Belle Isle Casino and building new pedestrian bridges and playscapes.

“It will be my first time racing in Detroit,” said Takuma Sato, driver of the No. 15 Honda IndyCar. “It’s always exciting to go to the new venue. Detroit has a great history in racing. Hopefully, I like it.”

Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was announced as the grand marshal of the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. He will say the most famous words in auto racing, "Drivers, Start Your Engines" and will ride in the official pace car, a Chevrolet Camaro SS convertible.

“Yeah, it will be my first time racing in Detroit,“ said J.R. Hildebrand, driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet IndyCar. “Being a Chevrolet guy this year, I’m really excited to race in their backyard. Hopefully, we’ll put on a good show for the bosses way upstairs.“

Sunday's Chevrolet Grand Prix will be broadcast live on ABC, the IMS Radio Network and Sirius XM Channel 94. Saturday's Chevrolet GRAND-AM 200 will air live on SPEED, MRN Radio Network and on Sirius XM Channel 90.

“We love going to Detroit,“ said Graham Rahal, driver of the No. 38 Honda IndyCar. “Obviously, the auto industry worldwide, Detroit plays a huge role in that. I’m looking forward to going back there. I raced there in 2008. I’m really looking forward to going back there. It’s a great facility and I know that Roger [Penske] is putting on the whole event for us. I think it’s an important race to have. Hopefully, we can revive Belle Isle a little bit.“

It will be the first time drivers have raced in the Motor City since 2008, when Justin Wilson won the Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle. Tony Kanaan won the Motor City race in 2007 while Helio Castroneves had a pair of victories in 2000 and 2001.

“It will be good to go back to Belle Isle,“ said Charlie Kimball, driver of the No. 83 Honda IndyCar. “I did an event in Detroit a couple of years ago and all of the fans were saying how sad it was to not have an IndyCar race in Detroit. To be able to go back and see the engine manufacturer competition in their backyards is always going to be fun.“

The Firestone Indy Lights series is considered to be the feeder series for the IZOD IndyCar series. Typically drivers spend a few years in Indy Lights and then move up to the IndyCar series shortly after.

“Yeah, I’m really excited,“ said Juan Pablo Garcia, driver of the No. 76 Firestone Indy Lights car. “It will be my first time racing in Detroit. I heard they have a really nice street course. I’m looking forward to it.“

For the first time in the history of the race, a new ferry will transport fans from the Detroit Port Authority on the Riverwalk to the Harbormaster Station at Belle Isle. Round trip tickets will be $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 12 and under. It will be priced the same as shuttle bus transportation.

“It’s going to be a very good race,” said Esteban Guerrieri, driver of the No. 11 Firestone Indy Lights car. “I know Detroit is an important city and it will be a good challenge for a lot of the drivers and the engineers to try to do the best job we can. It’s going to be a nice weekend hopefully.“

Motown legends The Four Tops will perform the U.S. National Anthem before the start of the Chevrolet Indy Grand Prix. In addition, Detroit's own Thornetta Davis will sing the Canadian national anthem before the start of Sunday's race.

“I am very much excited,“ said Sebastian Saavedra, driver of the No. 27 Firestone Indy Lights car. “Being put in the schedule this year, it for sure moves forward the series. We’re trying to go towards the fans instead of the fans coming to us. It’s been working so well so far and I’m excited to see Detroit fans. It will be my first time there. I’ll try to learn it in every possible way.“

Fans will be able to enjoy free musical performances by the Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, The B-52s and Ronnie Dunn (formerly of Brooks & Dunn) on the MotorCity Casino Hotel entertainment stage. Frankie D'Angelo, Serieux, Robin Horlock, 80's Inc., the Second Ebenezer Gospel Choir, British Beat 66 and Detroit's Martin Luther King High School marching band make up the local acts that will also perform throughout the weekend.

To order tickets for the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, call (888) 464-PRIX (7749) or visit www.detroitgp.com/tickets. Tickets can also be purchased inside the Renaissance Center at 300 Renaissance Center Drive, Suite 2311, Detroit.

Related Story: IndyCar drivers excited to return to Detroit and Fontana, Calif.

 

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

J.R. Hildebrand will race the No. 4 Chevrolet during Sunday's race.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Takuma Sato will drive the No. 15 Honda in the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Simona de Silvestro will drive the No. 78 Lotus during Sunday's race.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Mike Conway will race the No. 14 Honda in the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Ed Carpenter will drive the No. 20 Chevrolet during Sunday's race.

 

[ Return to Our Coverage of the 2012 Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix ]

 

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