DETROIT (AP) — Chevrolet is extending its sponsorship agreement with the Detroit Grand Prix, keeping it on Belle Isle through at least 2016.
“We love coming to Detroit to race,” Chip Ganassi Racing driver Ryan Briscoe said Tuesday. “It’s the Motor City.”
Even though it seems natural to have auto racing in Detroit, the city recently went four years without an event.
Roger Penske wanted a major race back in Detroit and thanks to a deal with Chevy, the Detroit Grand Prix returned in 2012. Without the new contract, this year’s IndyCar races could have potentially been the last ones scheduled here.
“Without the support of Chevrolet, we would not have been able to bring world-class auto racing back to the Motor City,” Detroit Grand Prix chairman Bud Denke said. “And with an extension of this partnership, we know the future certainly looks bright on Belle Isle for the Grand Prix.”
The Detroit Grand Prix will feature a pair of races – on May 30 and June 1 – just like last year.
“With a double-header, you’re racing for double the points over a single weekend,” Briscoe said. “It’s hard work. It’s physical for sure. It’s hard on the mechanics as well. It makes the whole procedure of the weekend a bit more rushed. The downtime between practice and qualifying sessions is a lot shorter and you have two full-distance races.”
Simon Pagenaud and Mike Conway won the races on an improved track that held up much better than it did three years ago when pot holes and grooves spoiled the show.
“The track’s got a little bit of everything from concrete, asphalt, bumps, man-hole covers and walls,” Briscoe said. “The layout is really good for racing. You’ve got a couple of long straightaways with big break zones, which is good for passing.”
The Detroit Grand Prix has been good for Belle Isle.
Penske and people he has lined up have pumped time and money into the island in the Detroit River, improving its roads and sprucing up everything in between and beyond, including the Scott Fountain.
The Detroit Grand Prix plan to invest $400,000 into Belle Isle this year alone.
“So people can use it the other 51 weeks of the year,” Denker said.
Belle Isle became a state park in February with the Department of Natural Resources taking over management as part of a cost-cutting effort for bankrupt Detroit.