Detroit Grand Prix creates welcoming atmosphere for fans on Belle Isle

Event dates back to early 1980s

DETROIT – The Detroit Grand Prix dates back to the early 1980s. It’s had many iterations, with three different kinds of racing at its core.

First was Formula One on the downtown track. Then, came CART. Finally, there was IndyCar, after Roger Penske revived the race on Belle Isle.

There is a new and different feeling to this year’s festivities. Yes, Local 4 and NBC are taking over the broadcasting rights, but there is something different in the way this event feels.

It’s inclusive on a scale you don’t often see at sporting events, these days. The race cars are towed right through the middle of the crowd -- so close you can almost reach out and touch, although it’s frowned upon.

The drivers get to know fans, and everyone is happily coming together around a successful event that will keep coming back year after year.

It’s not all about racing, though. There is a Meijer-sponsored play area offering the kiddos, and even the moms and dads, an opportunity to try every sport imaginable: throwing a football, measuring your fastball on a radar gun, putting, bowling, basketball shooting, and for the truly adventurous, Bouncing Bubbles -- that’s the massive inflated clear plastic ball you wear and slam into other people.

It’s a party atmosphere for sure, but in the end, this is about the new Detroit, and a single view of the city from the fountain now working on the Island. The chamber commerce view of the skyline the network is surely to show off regularly on the race telecasts. The gleaming Detroit River with sailboats and motorboats floating next to speeding race cars.

Penske’s vision of Detroit comes but once a year, yet it is a grand one nonetheless, and as one couple who flew into Detroit from Mexico for the race Thursday night put it, "The city looks gorgeous."

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