Detroit Grand Prix officials are moving the long-standing Detroit IndyCar weekend from Belle Isle to the streets of the city in 2023.
The streets of Detroit last hosted IndyCar racing in 1991.
The race downtown will be unique in that fans will be able to watch the action free of charge from several spots along the circuit.
Two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden knows all about rolling out the red carpet for an IndyCar race on downtown streets.
After all, Newgarden was the unofficial host and and special guest promoter for the 2021 Music City Grand Prix at Nashville—a city just down the road from his hometown of Hendersonville, Tennessee.
This time, it was a group of officials for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix who tapped Newgarden on the shoulder over Thanksgiving week to help promote the newest downtown street circuit on the IndyCar schedule. Detroit Grand Prix officials are moving the long-standing Detroit IndyCar weekend from Belle Isle to the streets of Detroit in 2023.
The new circuit was unveiled to nearly 200 Detroit media, business officials and government leaders this past week to rave reviews. The press conference was just 90 days out from the first discussions between Bud Denker, chairman of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, and Michael Montri, vice president of Penske Entertainment and president of the Detroit Grand Prix, about the possibility of moving the race.
The streets of Detroit last hosted IndyCar racing in 1991.
"It was purposeful for us to go to Belle Isle many, many years ago," said Denker. "The investment we’ve made there obviously has been well known. But Belle Isle has limitations, as far as physical limitations. We reached our height in terms as number of people.
"After we were in Nashville in August, saw the race there. Michael Montri and I thought, How could we do that in Detroit?' We found the right place to do it. We found the right circuit to do it, the right partners to do it."
The race downtown will be unique in that fans will be able to watch the action for free from several spots along the circuit. Also, care has been taken to make sure businesses along the 1.7-mile, 10-turn circuit will be allowed to remain open during race weekend, which is scheduled for June 2-4, 2023.
The circuit will include Jefferson Avenue, Bates Street, Atwater Street, St. Antoine, Franklin Street and Rivard. It will wind around General Motors' headquarters at the Renaissance Center and along the Detroit riverfront. Jefferson Avenue will include a .7-mile straight that will lead into a hairpin turn. The circuit will also feature a two-lane pit road with pits situated in essence across the street from each other—a first for IndyCar.
The IndyCar weekend in Detroit has included an IndyCar doubleheader since 2013. There was no race in Detroit due to COVID in 2020. Denker said it's too early to say if Detroit will continue to host a doubleheader when the race moves downtown in 2023.
"The engagement with business, the engagement with our community especially, is what excites me the most," Denker said. "All seven (political) districts (in the City of Detroit) are engaged. Not just the two districts downtown, but every district in our city. To think that we can have half of our circuit be open to the public for free is also unprecedented. No where else has that happened, but it’s happening in Detroit in 2023, and that’s what I’m most excited about."
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said that he's excited to see have the world get a different look though the lens of national television exposure at the good things happening in Detroit.
"The (television) shots from Belle Isle were beautiful— the water, the island—but this is a shot of the city," Duggan said. "And every time you revisit the city, there’s another building going up. We’re going to be able to project that image.
"What Roger (Penske) and Bud are building with this track is an asset that can be used with other things. We’ve moved the (North American International) Auto Show to summer/fall to have outdoor activities. I can envision being on this same track Grand Prix track a month or two later, jumping into an automated vehicle with no driver and having the auto companies show off their automated capabilities. You can see what this can do for the Motor City all the way around."
The future of the #DetroitGP for 2023 and beyond is exciting, welcoming and promising for the Motor City and its residents. Get up to speed on the vision of the event’s return to the Downtown #Detroit city streets starting in 2023. https://t.co/NXrMr9m2rt pic.twitter.com/iJl8L79U7a
— Detroit Grand Prix (@detroitgp) November 24, 2021
Race sponsor Chevrolet also sees the advantage of a move downtown.
"We’ll use this opportunity to display our products on the track," said Jim Campbell, General Motors' vice president, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. "We’ll race them. We’ll show our vehicles in the midways and displays around town. It’s a chance for us to interact with customers of today and prospective customers as well."
As for Newgarden, the veteran Team Penske racer, is one of those drivers who will pilot a Chevrolet-branded Indy car around the streets of Detroit in 2023. He won on Belle Isle in 2019 and is looking forward to not only the new challenge as a driver but also looking forward to the energy the race will bring downtown.
If you didn’t catch Tuesday’s #DetroitGP announcement, flash back to The Back to the Streets in 2023 event. See the vision & a preview of how #Detroit will look hen world-class racing & 3 days of fun & excitement return to the Motor City streets. #FBF https://t.co/wAeH9GRTcj
— Detroit Grand Prix (@detroitgp) November 26, 2021
"I love the enthusiasm of bringing the race back downtown," Newgarden said. "It really makes a ton of sense. As a driver, I’m super excited about the unique challenge to try something new. I've had the great opportunity to race on Belle Isle for the last 10 years.
"I always love coming to Detroit. It is one of my favorite events out of the year. I got a chance to drive the street circuit for about an hour. It’s a great layout. Its going to be fantastic for racing. I think they've done a really good job, a tremendous effort by everybody.
"I grew up in Nashville, and I could have never dreamed of driving an IndyCar race on my home streets. I couldn't imagine growing up in the Detroit area, making it to IndyCar one day and having the opportunity to race here. That would be the equivalent. It was really just amazing to see what it did for Nashville.
"I’ve personally seen the positive impact it can have on small businesses in the city."