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Detroit Grand Prix preps for final race weekend on Belle Isle

Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix
Posted at 5:31 AM, Jun 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-03 06:50:50-04

(WXYZ) — Friday is the first day of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle, and it's the final race weekend on the island before it returns to the streets of Downtown Detroit next year!

Many fans are excited for the race's return to the city, but it's bittersweet for many others. People have been making memories on Belle Isle since the race moved to the island in 1992, and the impact it's had on the island will live on for years to come.

It includes the fan-thrilling, fence-scaling win of IndyCar legend Helio Castroneves, to the first-ever celebratory dip in the Scott Fountain. Belle Isle will always hold a special place in racing history.

The streets of Downtown Detroit first welcomed racing with Formula 1 in 1982. By 1992, the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) was racing on the island.

That series would later become IndyCar, drawing even more fans, like self-proclaimed racing superfan Larry Murpy, the hockey hall of famer and former Detroit Red Wings player.

"In '98 before the Stanley Cup finals, we had the day off, I was able to come to the Belle Isle and see the first race live here. That was probably, for me, was the most memorable moment. And then of course, I don't think I've missed the race since then," Murphy said.

The 2.3-mile street course offers side-by-side racing, thrilling straightaways, and breathtaking views of Belle Isle and Detroit's skyline. The race would take a break from 2002-2006, and then come back as a passion project for legendary team owner Roger Penske.

Grand Prix Chairman Bud Denker is especially grateful to the 1,000 volunteers who help make the race possible. He's most proud of the $19 million worth of improvements they've left behind, from fixing the roads and building new bridges, to restoring the iconic Scott Fountain.

Michael Montri, the president of the Detroit Grand Prix, recalls the course corrections over the years, including the recessions, putting the brakes on the big event from 2009 until 2012.

“Chevrolet joined the IndyCar Series in 2012, and Mark Royce came to Roger Penske and he said, ‘Hey, if we're going be a part of this series, we want to have a race on Belle Isle.’ And Roger agreed. And here we are, 22 events later -- the last one on Belle Isle," Montri said.

"On Sunday evening, it'll be bittersweet for me. A lot of memories will flow into me that are very emotional," Denker said.

It's emotional for so many of us. So many legendary drivers, eight years as a double-header event, taking a break in 2020 because of the pandemic and then returning last year at limited capacity.

I remember taking a hot lap around the course with Team Penske's Josef Newgarden, and I can tell you, I have great respect for the racers and the athleticism required, the courage it takes to carve through this course at such crazy speeds.