In March when I joined the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix staff, I really had no idea what to expect come race weekend. But three months of preparation led to three days I’m sure I’ll never forget.
On Friday, June 1, it was rainy, cloudy and chilly. It wasn’t exactly the weather we wanted for PNC Bank Free Prix Day at the Grand Prix, but a good number of people still came out and had a great time. We hosted over 600 Detroit Public School students on the island and they got to see up close how racing works and how math, science and technology are such an important part of the sport. A lot of kids and families enjoyed all the activities in the Meijer Family Fun Zone, Cadillac Racing gave away free t-shirts and the paddock was full of fans enjoying a chance to see their favorite drivers and cars up close. And of course, the cars of the IZOD IndyCar Series, the GRAND-AM Rolex Series, the Firestone Indy Lights and Pirelli World Challenge roared around Belle Isle, thrilling the fans in the grandstands.
The weather was better on Saturday, which meant we had even more people come down to Belle Isle. I took a gentleman to meet IndyCar driver Graham Rahal as part of a contest he won, and he was very excited. Everywhere you looked, you saw people of all ages having a good time. It was awesome to see the island looking so beautiful and being enjoyed by so many people of all ages and backgrounds. Grand Prix history was also made as the event experienced its highest single-day ever in ticket sales.
On Sunday, the sun was out, skies were blue, and everything was great. Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions was there as the race Grand Marshal and a number of other celebrities including Kid Rock, the Four Tops and Thornetta Davis basked in the spotlight during the pre-race activities. The stars of the IZOD IndyCar Series were putting on a great show for the packed house of fans, then halfway through the race, an unexpected problem with the track caused the action to be stopped – red flagged, to use the proper racing term. The race operations team quickly went into action and began to fix the track. As they did so, it started raining for the first time all day. That was just about the last thing that we needed.
But the repair crew, including our Event Chairman Bud Denker, worked very hard and made sure all the problems were fixed. The cars returned to the track and the race continued. It was a tough situation but many of the fans struck around and made the best of it and we were all proud that we were able to overcome the issues and keep racing, showing our true Detroit spirit. At the end Scott Dixon emerged as the winner of the race and he couldn’t have been happier.
As the top three finishers began to arrive at the winner’s circle, rain started again, this time much heavier than before. But it suddenly slowed down and out of nowhere, a double rainbow came out of the clouds above the victory podium. It was really unbelievable. It seemed like a fitting end to a memorable weekend.
In all, the Grand Prix was an awesome experience. It was great to see the excitement of racing for the first time. It was also wonderful to be part of such a positive event for our area. I also met so many great people, many of them members of the media, and all of them lovers of racing or lovers of Detroit. And you know what? I think this racing thing really started to rub off on me. When I started with the Grand Prix I had no idea what to think about racing but I learned so much and I would love to go to another race this year and I can’t wait for next year’s Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. The dates are already set for May 31 to June 2 next year, so please mark your calendars and make sure you’re there in 2013! It will be another unforgettable weekend!