IndyCar drivers say they’re excited about the Detroit Grand Prix moving back to the streets of downtown from Belle Isle.
Team Penske driver, and winner of last Sunday’s Indy 500 race, Josef Newgarden says he likes Belle Isle but thinks racing in downtown Detroit this weekend will be even better.
Newgarden spoke to WDET about the race changes and what it means for IndyCar fans.
The following interview was edited for clarity.
Josef Newgarden: I really think it’s going to be an upgrade in so many ways from Belle Isle. As much as I’ve loved Belle Isle, it’s been a tremendous place to race, I think this will be even better by tenfold. Just the engagement of people in the community. It’s in the heart of Detroit and people are gonna be able to access this event so much better. So I really think everyone’s gonna love it for years to come.
Alex McLenon, WDET News: One thing race organizers mentioned a lot when they talked about moving it to Detroit was referencing the Nashville street track Indycar race, which is your home race. How has the community responded to the race in Nashville and how has success downtown carried over, benefited the series or benefited the event? Is that something that can happen here?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, Nashville is a very supportive city for events. And it’s been an amazing atmosphere to recreate. And I think we’re trying to do that a bit here. And everyone loves that race in my city. So I think the same can happen here in Detroit.
When you look at the track map, looking at potential passing zones, Belle Isle had a lot of opportunities to pass, going down into turn 3, maybe turn 7, and then through that 4-6 area you could maybe get something done. With this new downtown circuit, there’s that big run to the hairpin down Jefferson Avenue. Is there anywhere else where you think we’ll have passing opportunities here?
When it’s a street circuit you can generally pass anywhere when there’s an opportunity. And what I mean by that is in the race, when people are starting to fade on old tires, etc., you can make a passing zone anywhere you’re out on the track. I think here the main straightaway on Jefferson leading into the hairpin is going to be the primary overtaking zone. But these kind of events, they change complexion so quickly in the middle of it that we don’t know how the tires are going to survive. And if you get towards the end of a stint, you can really turn any corner into a passing zone. So hopefully that’s the case. It’ll make it exciting for people to watch.
How do you foresee the double-wide pit road working?
I’ve no idea. We haven’t done this in a long time. Certainly not a true dual pit lane. I had a little experience with this in Baltimore years ago on a street course where we had to place some cars on the other side of a pit lane entry, so it was somewhat split. But this is a true dueling pit lane, so I think it’ll look pretty impressive when we’re racing. But as far as the way we drivers are going to interact, it remains to be seen how well we’re gonna get along with this process.
If you had to pick what creates a successful event, making a track that was great for racing or great for attracting fans, what’s more important and why?
It’s always a blend, you know. I don’t think it can be purely one side or the other. You want to have a great atmosphere for the fans as far as the event goes. Because when it’s an event, there’s a lot of other time when cars aren’t on the track and you want people to enjoy the atmosphere, enjoy each other’s company. But also the on-track product is really important, right? So I think you’ve got to always have both as a priority. You’re gonna push one way or the other between the two, it can’t be a perfect 50-50 split. And I think the racing action probably takes a little bit more cake there, just so you can have a great on-track product.