Photo: Chris Owens/INDYCAR

Event Preview: The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix

By Frank Santoroski, Staff Writer

This coming weekend the Verizon IndyCar Series will return to the Raceway on Belle Isle for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, continuing the 2017 season. The race weekend will be the only double-header of the season featuring two full races. The event is slated for June 2-4, 2017.

About the Race

The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix comprises rounds seven and eight of seventeen for the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2017.  The races are held on a temporary street circuit, two of five such races on the calendar.

The defending race winner for race one is Sebastien Bourdais, who will miss this year’s event while he recovers from injuries suffered in a qualifying crash at Indianapolis. Race two was won by Team Penske’s Will Power in 2016.

Each race will consist of 70 laps for a total race distance of 164.5 miles. Separate qualifying sessions will set the starting grid for each race.

Support races include action from the the IMSA Weathertech Sports Car Series, the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli, and the SPEED Energy Super Trucks. In addition, fans will be treated with concerts from Montgomery Gentry and Jody Watley.

About the Track

The Raceway on Belle Isle features thirteen turns around a 2.34 mile circuit. The track features a few hard braking zones that offer an opportunity to pass. The track is relatively narrow compared to others, and allows precious little room for mistakes.

The raceway is situated on a 982-acre island in the Detroit River on the Canadian border, with the skyline of the City of Detroit serving as a backdrop.

Belle Isle formally became a State Park in 2014 when the City of Detroit declared bankruptcy. In the past few years, the State has invested $20 million in improvements. It is currently the largest State Park in Michigan and attracts 4 million visitors annually.

Attractions on the Island include a nature conservatory, and aquarium and zoo, a municipal golf course, various walking and biking trails through wooded areas and the Detroit Yacht Club.

Event History

The Grand Prix of Detroit was first held in 1982 as an event on the FIA Formula One calendar. The race was located on a temporary street circuit in the downtown Detroit area circling around the Renaissance Center. John Watson, in the McLaren, was the inaugural winner.

With a track surface that was prone to crumbling, and a pit lane that was not up to FIA standards, Formula One backed out of the event after 1988. The race was revived the following year as a race for the CART series, with Emerson Fittipaldi taking the checkered flag. The CART series ran the downtown circuit for three more years. Continuing issues with the track surface prompted the race to be moved to The Raceway on Belle Isle in 1992, where it remains today.

The race on Belle Isle has an on-again, off-again history. Unhappy with poor access, the narrow racing line, and the muddy paddock area, the CART Series dropped the event after the contract expired in 2001.

Feeling that auto racing belonged in Detroit, the seminal home of U.S. automobile manufacturing, Roger Penske was instrumental in bringing the IndyCar series to Belle Isle in 2007.

After two runnings, the race was dropped again, due to the economic crisis in the automobile industry and its effect on the city of Detroit. As the local economy began to improve, the race returned in 2012. In 2013, the race was was contested as a double-header for the first time.

About the Field

The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series Field represents one of the strongest, talent-packed, top-to-bottom lineups in all of racing.

22 drivers will take the green in Detroit, with Oriol Servia joining the series regulars in a second car for Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing. As of this writing, a replacement driver has not yet been named for Sebastien Bourdais in the Dale Coyne Racing entry.

Former Detroit winners in the field include Helio Castroneves (three wins), Will Power (two wins), Carlos Munoz, Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon.

The reigning Series Champion is Simon Pagenaud, who drives for Team Penske. Pagenaud, who hails from Poitiers, France, is in his third season with Team Penske, and 2016 marked his first series title. The current points leader is Helio Castroneves, who is coming off of a second place at Indianapolis.

Fifteen of the entered drivers are IndyCar race winners, five have won championships in IndyCar or CART/Champcar, and six are Indy 500 winners. There will be one true rookie in the field, with Ed Jones behind the wheel of the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda.

Drivers in the series represent twelve different countries around the globe, making it a truly international field.

About the Series

The current Verizon IndyCar Series was born out of the Indy Racing League, which absorbed the rival ChampCar World Series in 2008. In the years since the reunification, the series has seen steady growth in attendance and television ratings.

The positive growth in recent years bodes well for the Series that is owned by Hulman and Company. The centerpiece of the series is the Indianapolis 500, which ran for the 101st time in May. Mark Miles is the Chief Executive of Hulman and Company, and Jay Frye is the President of Competition and Operations for the Verizon Indycar Series.

Teams in the series use a common chassis, the Dallara DW-12, named in honor of the late Dan Wheldon, who did much of the development testing of the car. The chassis has aerodynamic components that differ according to the engine manufacturer. The 2017 rules called for a freeze on aero-kit development, in anticipation of a common aero package for 2018.

Chevrolet and Honda are the engine partners for the Series with each supplying a 2.2 Liter V-6 turbocharged engine to the teams that are capable of producing over 700 hp at 12200 rpm. All cars in the series run Firestone Firehawk tires.


Where and When to Watch

Tickets for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix can be purchased here. Pricing ranges from $40.00 for a one day GA ticket up to $150.00 for a weekend grandstand ticket.

Television coverage will be provided through ABC-TV beginning at 3:30 pm EST on both Saturday June 3 and Sunday June 4.

Other coverage options include Sirius XM radio (Sirius:209, XM:212). Timing and scoring can be found at and fans can keep up with all of the action on the IndyCar Mobile app provided by Verizon Communications.

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A life-long racing enthusiast, Santoroski attended his first live race in 1978, the Formula One Grand Prix of the United States at Watkins Glen. Following graduation from Averett College, Santoroski covered the CART series through the 1990s and 2000s for CART Pages and Race Family Motorsports in addition to freelance writing for various print and web sources. He produces a variety of current and historical content for Motorsports Tribune and serves as the host for the weekly radio broadcast,Drafting the Circuits,