DETROIT — About a dozen race car drivers were on hand for the 2018 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix media luncheon. It was held on Thursday afternoon at the beautiful Detroit Yacht Club on Belle Isle. All of the drivers are excited to race this weekend in the home of the Big Three automakers.
Will Power may have the most momentum coming into the weekend. He won the last two IndyCar races, the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar Grand Prix. Now, he is looking to make it three-in-a-row for team owner, Roger Penske.
“I just look forward to getting in the car and focusing forward,” Power said in an exclusive interview. “We come straight off the 500 so the crews have to work very hard to switch the cars over for a road course. It’s the most grueling part of our season. You’ve got to qualify well and have the strategy that goes right. All of the combinations come together to win a race. It’s a very, very important race for us. It’s Roger’s hometown. It’s Chevrolet’s hometown. We put a lot of emphasis on this race.
Penske is credited with bringing back the Detroit Grand Prix back to Belle Isle in 2007 after a four-year absence. He talked about Detroit’s resurgence and the importance of the races.
“I think the city of Detroit is on a roll,” Penske explained. “If you look at the corporate commitment to this race, there’s nothing like it across our series because they want to see our city be successful. I know there’s a few people that don’t like us here, but maybe they don’t see what we are trying to bring back. That’s always life, you deal with those things. You know the Gilbert’s and the Illitches and the Kresge’s and all of these people have just made a huge difference. The mayor, you’ve got to give him a huge amount of credit. He knows how to get things done.”
Things will be a little bit different for former IndyCar driver Helio Castroneves. This time, he’s driving an Acura for Team Penske in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar series. In the past, he’s been behind the wheel of an IndyCar. Castroneves threw the green flag and the checkered flag for a Slow Roll bike ride from downtown Detroit to Belle Isle.
“Belle Isle is always a great place for me, it brings great memories,” Castroneves said. “My first win ever was on Belle Isle. This is the first time that I’ll be driving the Acura Team Penske. It’s a new beginning. Now, we’ll have a roof over our heads. The car is actually the same size. In order to win here, you’ve got to stay out of trouble. This place is challenging. Not only for the drivers but the engineers.”
Meanwhile, Jordan Taylor returns to Belle Isle to race in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. He is the defending champion from last year’s race in Detroit.
“I’m excited, we’ve won the last five out of six races at Belle Isle,” Taylor said. “Last year, it was the first time we had the Cadillac for GM. They always put a lot of pressure on us to win this one. I think we are coming in with a lot of momentum and should be battling for the win. It’s tough track to pass on. It’s only 100 minutes so any little mistake will cost you a lot and you won’t have time to make that up. There’s great food here, great atmosphere and great nightlife. Walking along the riverfront is really nice and beautiful. You can pretty much walk anywhere.”
Many people know Arie Luyendyk Jr. as the Bachelor from the popular ABC series. However, he’s also a driver in the SPEED Energy Stadium SUPER Trucks Series. Look for him to drive a Lear-sponsored truck on Saturday and Sunday on Belle Isle.
“I’ve been on the podium here, finished second and third,” he explained. “Last year, had a little accident trying to pass for second. That was the first year that Lear was on board. Still have to bring home a podium for them. The last race that we had in Perth, I took the victory. Hopefully, I can still keep that momentum going here.”
Of course, I had to ask him about the upcoming wedding with his fiancé Lauren Burnham.
“It was a great experience being the Bachelor,” Luyendyk Jr. added. “This is where I’m most comfortable at the race track. It’s been awesome. Lauren has been able to come with me to a number of races. She’s here this weekend rooting me on as well as her family. We’re getting married January 12 in Maui. We’re full force on wedding planning right now–getting the guest together so we’re excited. No, it won’t be on television. I’m sure we’ll post some stuff on social just for fun.”
For tickets and more information about the Detroit Grand Prix, visit http://www.detroitgp.com/