Penske Vows to Keep Detroit Grand Prix at ‘Perfect’ Belle Isle Site

Roger Penske says Belle Isle is perfect for Detroit Grand Prix. Some protesters say race mars beauty of island park.

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The driving force behind the Detroit Grand Prix says the annual event held on Belle Isle will remain on the island.

Some activists have complained that a stretch of land on Belle Isle that was paved over to create parking and pit areas mars the island’s natural beauty.

They also criticize race promoters for the many weeks it takes to set-up and tear-down the temporary race track on the island.

Dawn Uhl-Zifilippo/WDET

But legendary race team owner Roger Penske tells WDET’s Quinn Klinefelter Belle Isle is the perfect venue for the Grand Prix.

Penske says the event itself is a boon to both the island and Detroit.


Click on the audio link above to hear the full interview with Penske


Dawn Uhl-Zifilippo/WDET

The hometown Penske team was able to get several drivers near the front of the field in Race 2.

But Penske, like the rest of the Indycar teams, spent the weekend chasing driver Graham Rahal, who carved his name in Detroit racing history with a pair of wins over the weekend on Belle Isle.

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It was a weekend of firsts for Rahal.

He qualified first for the first Indycar race of the Detroit Grand Prix weekend, then became the first driver to ever sweep the doubleheader on Belle Isle since it was put in place by organizers five years ago.

Rahal notes he’s also the first U.S. driver to win in Detroit since Michael Andretti, who now operates his own Indycar team.

Rahal says, “The last American to win here was in ’96. That’s pretty cool. This city is so Americana in so many ways. (It’s the) Motor City, obviously. It’s great to get a win here.”

Dawn Uhl-Zifilippo/WDET

Rahal has struggled a bit, both this year and in his Indycar career.

So it’s no surprise the son of racing legend Bobby Rahal raised some eyebrows in the pit lane when he told competitors he thought he could dominate the twin Indycar events over the weekend.

But Rahal says from the moment his team arrived on Belle Isle his car was so fast that he could hardly sleep the night before the first race.

“I knew that I was good enough for the first time in a long time,” Rahal says. “The car, myself, everything was good enough here to legitimately be on pole and to set the tone here. That doesn’t happen all the time. For us, that doesn’t happen that often. I just didn’t want to mess up.”

The Indycar events on Belle Isle also became a showcase for Rahal’s engine supplier Honda, which continued the strong showing it displayed when it powered Takuma Sato to a win a week ago at the Indy 500.


  • Quinn Klinefelter
    Quinn Klinefelter is a Senior News Editor at 101.9 WDET. In 1996, he was literally on top of the news when he interviewed then-Senator Bob Dole about his presidential campaign and stepped on his feet.