Although the glow of the 2018 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) has faded, car aficionados and racing fans alike can look forward to the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear taking place on the Raceway at Belle Isle on June 1st through the 3rd.
We’ve seen a lot of services evolve over the years also, from babysitting to taking care of the kids to education services
Bud Denker, Chairman of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear
As always, the NAIAS provided a great opportunity for the Motor City to bring folks from all over the country (and further) to see the latest trends in the automobile industry. Amidst the excitement which always permeates the NAIAS, people visiting on Family Day, Friday, January 24th were treated to a visit from IndyCar racing legends, Will Power and Rick Mears.
The history of racing in Detroit goes back at least as far as 1982 when the first Grand Prix was held here. Since then, the show has come and gone and undergone several changes. It has also grown in both attendance (with last year seeing an estimated 100,000 attendees) and spending alike with a record-breaking $58 Million in total spending. The 2018 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear is ready to surpass the success of last year’s races by once again featuring the only doubleheader weekend on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, aka the Chevrolet Duel in Detroit, the return of Comerica Bank Free Prix Day, a new reserved grandstand seating area and a host of other exciting improvements fans will be delighted by.
Over the last few years, the city of Detroit has undergone numerous changes such as the addition of the QLine running along Woodward Avenue between Congress Street and West Grand Boulevard and the building of the Little Caesars Arena which brought basketball and hockey under one roof. Belle Isle, home of the Prix in Detroit, has also undergone its own updates, quite a few of which can be credited to General Motors. “We’re proud of what we’ve done and continue to do on Belle Isle, with over 13.5 million dollars kind of dedicated to the island and the improvements we’ve done there. A lot of our partners are on board with helping us improve Belle Isle which is kind of our main regime,” says Merrill Cain, Public/Community Relations Director at General Motors.
Although always family friendly, racing has become even more so with a crop of younger drivers who have grown up racing and are starting to have families of their own. Will Power, who stopped by the NAIAS to meet fans and sign autographs, is one of those drivers. Power’s wife, Liz, has been known to follow him on the road since 2014 and joining them will be their son Beau who just turned one last December. The Australian racer has strong ties to Detroit, having won the Chevy Dual in Detroit twice with hopes to do it again at this year’s Prix. “I always enjoy racing [at Belle Isle], it’s a big deal for our team cause it’s Chevrolet and Roger Penske’s home race, so we’ve got the pressure on to perform,” says Power.
“You know, when I’m on the track it’s funny, you’d think it would be kind of there, but it just doesn’t enter your mind. When you get in the car, you kind of just focus on what you’re doing,” says Power on whether his feelings for racing have changed since the birth of his firstborn. “My wife, she was already a nervous wreck at the races, chewing on water bottles. I don’t think anything’s going to change there.” Juggling a career and family is difficult enough for anyone, but even more for those like Power who spend so much time away from home, luckily his family will be traveling with him. “It’s definitely easier with them being on the road. Whenever I have to go away and do stuff like this I just wanna get home. I mean it’s amazing how much you miss being home once you have a child.”
Bud Denker, Chairman of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, agrees that having family on the road is beneficial for athletes of this particular sport. “I think it gives them piece of mind. When they go back after a tough day, after a tough qualifying, after a tough practice and walk into that motor coach, it’s different than when they’re by themselves when they have someone to look at,” says Denker. “So, I think it provides them a whole new outlet of relief and just decompressing because when you’re in a racecar, and you’re going 180 miles an hour, it’s a very stressful thing, a very dangerous thing. But you walk out of it, you walk into your motor coach, and you have a family there.”
This increase in families of drivers following their loved one on the road is somewhat new for Indy Racing. In the past, most racers left their wives and children at home and Denker says, “we have a lot of millennials now, with different priorities and different perspectives on things and family is very important to them.” Because of this change in drivers, the environment of racing has altered as well. “It’s interesting, it’s the evolution of their lives, right? So, most of the athletes bring their motor coaches to the track, they never have to leave the track that way. You know, they’re always there cause they’re there for three or four days, so many of these tracks now have services that take care of the children because their wives are now involved, and the drivers, of course, have the job to do,” says Denker. “So, we’ve seen a lot of services evolve over the years also, from babysitting to taking care of the kids to education services as well that have developed over probably the last six to eight years I’d say. These drivers come through the ranks. We’ve got a driver that’s 18 years old, we’ve got a driver that’s 21 years of age. These guys all started at those ages and now their married and have kids.”
Fortunately for drivers, this is a sport that is very supportive of their lives outside of racing. “Well the key thing is, you gotta remember, we love ‘em having kids as long as they don’t go slower,” jokes Denker. “We just ensure they have the time for [their family] that they need. We balance our schedules for a race weekend based on the amount of time they need with their families, we take that into account. So, we’re very savvy about, that and they gotta have time. They have to have [time for work] as well. but we balance that. It’s not one dimensional.”
Racing, like any other sport, is one that kids often grow up partaking in. “You start with a little go-kart, and go-kart racing here in the US is huge,” says Power who grew up around racing with his father being an open wheel racer. He says that he won’t push his son into racing but will support him if he chooses to follow in his father’s footsteps. Denker says “all these athletes started when they were young kids. Their parents got them into it maybe at six, seven or eight-years-of-age. From there it became a way of life. They chose karting versus baseball, basketball or any other sport.”
This year’s Detroit Grand Prix will be a great opportunity to bring any children who may dream of someday being a driver. If not, at least there will be tons of fun games and activities on the beautiful island of Belle Isle.
The 2018 Chevrolet Grand Prix presented by Lear returns to the Raceway at Belle Isle Park, June 1-3. Tickets are on sale now, starting at $40. Fans can learn more about the Grand Prix and get their tickets by visiting detroitgp.com or by calling 866-464-PRIX (7749).