Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix - Day 2

Detroit’s Belle Isle Park getting “Penske perfect” ahead of Grand Prix weekend


After the Verizon IndyCar Series completes its Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the 98th Indianapolis 500 on May 25, it will head to Detroit’s Belle Isle Park for the first doubleheader event of the season (May 31-June 1).

And while team owner Roger Penske is now setting his sights on a 16th Indianapolis 500 victory, he’s also been helping with final preparations for the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, which will feature the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and the Pirelli World Challenge in addition to the IndyCars.

His corporation helped bring big-time auto racing back to the Motor City by reviving the Belle Isle race in 2012, and Penske has been working hard to make the race a prestigious event for the entire region.

“I want to get an “A,’ ” Penske said recently to Crain’s Detroit Business. “We’re all working together and take this very seriously, because you can’t practice this, so we’re doing it in a way that our organization can deliver, and people trust that.”

Last year’s doubleheader on Belle Isle saw a sizable increase in attendance across the entire weekend, both in the grandstands and in the corporate suites. It also generated more than $1 million worth of new spending.

As for 2014, it looks like Penske and his Belle Isle team may be on course for an even bigger hit.

Crain’s reporter Dustin Walsh writes that this year’s Grand Prix will have 17 corporate chalets along the last straightaway on the 2.3-mile course – and all of them are sold out.

Additionally, despite a price jump, ticket sales are tracking ahead of last year’s event. More than 100,000 fans are expected to vist Belle Isle during the Grand Prix weekend.

Crews have also been busy creating new amenities such as paved walkways around the grandstands and a new bridge over the track that will connect the aforementioned chalets with the paddock areas.

“For us to create a successful event, we have to create access,” Penske told Crain’s. “The stick-and-ball sports can’t offer access like we can, so we are taking advantage of it.”

Mercedes set to clinch F1 constructors’ championship in Russia

SOCHI, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 08:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP speaks with members of the media in the paddock during previews to the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on October 8, 2015 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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For the second year in a row, Mercedes is poised to wrap up the Formula 1 constructors’ championship in Sochi at this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.

Mercedes won its first F1 teams’ title in Russia last year, having returned to the sport as a works constructor in 2010. When it last enjoyed such status in the 1950s, there was no championship for the teams.

Just as it did in 2014, Mercedes has dominated proceedings in F1 this season, winning all but three races and sweeping to eight one-two finishes to leave drivers Lewis Hamilton (pictured) and Nico Rosberg battling for the drivers’ title for the second straight year.

Now, Mercedes seeks the knock-out blow in the constructors’ title race by officially wrapping it up in Sochi this weekend.

To do so, the team must simply outscore rivals Ferrari by three points this weekend. The lead currently stands at 169 points, with 215 still on offer. After Sochi, there will be 172 remaining.

“We return to Russia with positive memories from last season, when the team sealed the first constructors’ title for Mercedes-Benz with a one-two finish,” team boss Toto Wolff said.

“A repeat performance in Sochi would be fantastic and this is absolutely the target – but we are under no illusions that it will come easy. The job is not done yet.”

The tire allocation for this weekend’s race could pose problems to Mercedes just as it did in Singapore, potentially allowing Ferrari to spoil the party and delay the victory celebrations at Brackley.

However, if the form book is to be trusted, Sochi could be playing host to another Mercedes party on Sunday night with a second world title in the bag for the Silver Arrows.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Charlie Kimball

Charlie Kimball
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the driver-by-driver recaps following the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season, with a look at Charlie Kimball, who finished 12th this year.

Charlie Kimball, No. 83 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 14th Place, Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 6th, 1 Podium, 4 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 16.3 Avg. Start, 12.6 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 12th Place, Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 6th, 2 Podiums, 3 Top-5, 5 Top-10, 21 Laps Led, 13.3 Avg. Start, 13.1 Avg. Finish

“Super Chuck” – as NBCSN’s Townsend Bell has called him in the past – had another typically “Super Chuck” season. He produced some dizzying heights, made a few mistakes, and posted a lot of consistent runs in the middle that ultimately netted him 12th in points for the season.

We wrote last year that one of the areas where Kimball most needed to improve was his qualifying, and a three-spot year-to-year gain from 16.3 to 13.3 delivered that improvement. Problem was, in a Chevrolet top-heavy grid, Kimball might have been qualifying better, but he was qualifying behind at least seven or eight more fancied Chevrolet runners. In a Honda, you worry if Kimball’s grid positions this year would have dipped into the low teens or high 20s, rather than only just missing advancing into Q2 as was often the case.

While Barber and Mid-Ohio had served as his standout races in the past, the undoubted highlight of Kimball’s 2015 season was his quiet early – then dynamic late – drive to third in the Indianapolis 500. It was a performance that was particularly impressive given he was up against past series champions Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power and Scott Dixon, who were all vying for the win. Another podium at Sonoma was his first on a road or street course since Detroit race two in 2014, and put him third in points in the two double points races for the year.

But mistakes occurred all too regularly in the 14 standard points events, where he ranked 14th among all drivers. Contacting Dixon in Detroit, surviving a nightmare weekend in Iowa with multiple incidents, and coming together with Graham Rahal in St. Petersburg – even though Rahal was assessed a penalty for avoidable contact – were all moments he’d like to have back.

Kimball’s five years into his IndyCar career and there’s enough evidence to suggest now his breakout 2013 season was an outlier, not the norm. But seasons like 2014 and 2015 prove he still has plenty in hand to cut it at this level, and together with his entire Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing team, an overall asset to the sport.