This June, race cars will return to Belle Isle for the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. We asked Merrill Cain, who serves as the public and community relations director at the Grand Prix, about what the event has in store for attendees this year.
CAIN: On the track we have an action-packed weekend with eight races from four different series, including the only doubleheader weekend on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. Called the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit and presented by Quicken Loans, it is two full points-paying championship races on Saturday and Sunday, which is challenging for the teams and drivers but a great experience for our fans.
We also have the exotic sports cars of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship racing on Saturday in the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic, presented by the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers. This series features manufacturers in its Prototype class, such as Chevrolet, Elan, Honda, Mazda, and Nissan while the GT Daytona class features Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Dodge, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Porsche.
The SPEED Energy Stadium SUPER Trucks presented by TRAXXAS will host three races over the course of the weekend. These identically-prepared, high-horsepower trucks are made to resemble their scaled-down TRAXXAS radio-controlled counterparts. The SST trucks go over man-made jumps on the track, flying 25 feet in the air and hundreds of feet down the track. They are a real fan favorite and a Grand Prix must see.
Returning to Belle Isle for the first time in 15 years is the Trans Am Series racing in the Motor City 100 on Saturday and Sunday. Competing in a 100-mile sprint race without the need for pit stops for fueling or driver changes, this series is driver versus driver, featuring American manufacturers such as Chevrolet, Ford, and Dodge.
Profile: In addition to the races, the Grand Prix offers a number of activities to engage fans. What experience do you hope to give attendees?
CAIN: First and foremost, we hope people leave the Grand Prix with smiles on their faces after having a great time. Fans can come to the Grand Prix and never even see a car on the track and still have a great time with everything that we have to offer. Of course, we hope they experience all the great racing action as well.
Profile: Have you made any changes to the event since 2014, and if so, what are they?
CAIN: We continue to try and make the Grand Prix more than just a racing event and more of a festival-type experience for fans. This year we have worked to improve the Meijer Fan Zone with more activities for fans including the Trendy Crafts craft show. Our upgraded Coors Light Beer Garden and Food Court will have more games including giant Jenga and more. The return of the Trans Am Series is also new this year.
Profile: Why did various series choose to race at Belle Isle in 2007, and what has prompted the return to the island over the past decade?
CAIN: After the success of the Super Bowl in in Detroit 2006, the Downtown Detroit Partnership, led by then Chairman Roger Penske, wanted to have an annual sporting event to help showcase downtown Detroit. With the success of Team Penske in the Verizon IndyCar Series and the history of IndyCars racing on Belle Isle from 1994-2001, it made sense to revive the race and bring it back to the island in 2007. With the challenging economic times after 2008, the race took a break for a few years before it returned in 2012, thanks to the support of General Motors [and] Chevrolet and partners like Quicken Loans.
Profile: The Grand Prix generated over $47 million dollars in metro Detroit spending in 2014. As Detroit’s popularity continues to grow, what kind of community impact do you expect to see this year?
CAIN: The Grand Prix continues to give back to Belle Isle and Detroit with several projects over the years, including improving drainage systems on the island, repaving the roadways, restoring Scott Fountain and the Belle Isle Casino, installing new lighting on the MacArthur Bridge with our partners Platinum Equity, and more. Through many of our corporate partnerships, we also reach out to the community by bringing Detroit Public Schools students out to Belle Isle during the Grand Prix as a part of Education Day to show students the real-world application of STEM initiatives on the race track.
Profile: The Belle Isle Grand Prix showcases a different component of the Motor City’s auto legacy. What role do you think the event plays in the perception of Detroit?
CAIN: We believe the Grand Prix is a shining example of the revival of Detroit and the event showcases the city and the Detroit and Windsor waterfronts in a unique and impactful way. With the only doubleheader on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, the Dual in Detroit races provide back-to-back days of national television network coverage on ABC, giving Detroit and Belle Isle tremendous exposure. People see Belle Isle on TV and the beautiful overhead shots and they cannot believe that this island and these views come from right here in Detroit. The eight hours of national television coverage and 13 hours of local coverage is fantastic for our region, and it helps brings to light the beauty of Belle Isle.
For more info visit DetroitGP.com and follow them on social media: facebook.com/detroitgp; twitter.com/detroitgp; instagram.com/detroitgp