In June, an NTT INDYCAR SERIES event will be held in Detroit for the 26th time, the 13th time the current race promotion group led by the Downtown Detroit Partnership and Penske Corporation have hosted the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear.
But as the event transitions to downtown for the first time since 1991, organizers have realized a new opportunity to make a first impression in the community, and they are taking advantage of it.
A new initiative was outlined Monday, and Michael Montri, the event’s president, insisted it won’t be the last.
“It’s only the start of what we’re doing,” he said of the INDYCAR Art Installation powered by PPG, which will put scale-model Indy cars designed by Detroit students in neighborhoods across the Motor City. “We have additional initiatives in the works that will not only tie the Grand Prix to the community but will go a long way to introducing the sport to people.”
In most years between 1992 and 2022, the Grand Prix was held at Belle Isle Park, a short drive from downtown. While the circuit on the picturesque island offered interesting competition and activities, it had limitations. For one, the island wasn’t walkable for most of the city, and it lacked the natural connectivity to the people that being downtown offers.
The nine-turn, 1.71-mile downtown street circuit will be so close to the heart of the city, organizers have determined that there are 200 businesses within a 15-minute walk. Also, people driving through the Windsor Tunnel, which connects Canada to the U.S., will be within 12 feet of the race cars speeding past. The event is June 2-4.
Montri said the Grand Prix staff decided the change in venue location was the perfect time to double down on community interaction. The unique community art program announced Monday will showcase the creative talent and vision of Detroit Public Schools Community District students.
Following display in each district in Detroit over the next several months, all student-designed car models will be available for bid during a special online auction in May. The proceeds will benefit the City of Detroit Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship and their work supporting local artists while developing creative programming across the city.
The Art Installation includes a car designed by renowned Detroit artist Phil Simpson – known for his distinct smile art throughout the city – and all 10 INDYCAR art models were unveiled during an event at Henry Ford High School. Students representing the participating high schools were in attendance, along with representatives from Detroit City Council, the Detroit Public Schools Community District and executives from both PPG Industries and the Grand Prix.
“There are a lot of kids in Detroit that don’t know who our (INDYCAR SERIES) stars are, what our cars look like and how cool this sport is,” Montri said. “To help with that, we have two Indy cars that travel around the city for display at various events, and we’ve made it a point to get those out to the neighborhoods to let the kids see them up close, sit in them and see how cool these things are.
“That’s transferrable to some of the other (INDYCAR SERIES) events because there are pockets of people in every city who aren’t as familiar with this sport as they could be.”
The INDYCAR SERIES also stages downtown events in St. Petersburg, Florida, Long Beach, California, Toronto and Nashville, Tennessee.
Montri said Penske Entertainment’s ownership of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and Indianapolis Motor Speedway increases its responsibility of good stewardship, and it goes beyond selling tickets.
“It’s more important than ever that we expose as many people to the sport as we can and not just from a fandom standpoint,” he said. “There are so many opportunities for employment in motorsports, and not just for the drivers. There are engineers, artists that design cars, (public relations) representatives, doctors, nurses – a wide range of people who make this sport happen. So, there is an additional benefit to exposing kids to the sport.
Tickets for the Grand Prix went on sale Jan. 23, and Montri said the response has been amazing – a Day 1 increase of 75 percent year over year. All but seven of the 70 chalets have been sold.
The groundwork for the Grand Prix’s move was laid months ago when organizers met with thousands of Detroit business owners and neighborhood leaders over a several-month period. Montri said that connectivity is what will help the event solidify its long-term place as a downtown showcase.
“We want to have a positive year-round impact and a long legacy on a very large footprint of downtown Detroit,” Montri said.
To learn more about the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, including how to purchase tickets, visit www.DetroitGP.com. The race, which airs live at 3 p.m. ET June 4, will be the seventh on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ 17-race schedule this year.