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.”