I had the wonderful opportunity to volunteer this weekend at the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. Needless to say it was a great opportunity, especially being at the race itself. While I only attended one of the two days of the inaugural “Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit,” presented by Quicken Loans, the excitement and the environment surrounding the race and the festivities was amazing. From the smell of the fuel to the sights and sounds of the car as they whizzed past me on the ever-so-entertaining turn three, the experience was something that I will never forget.
As a volunteer, I was a circuit marshal with a little bit of racing knowledge that I pulled from my past years and occasionally Wikipedia, standing 15 feet from what race Chairman Bud Denker proclaimed as quite possibly “the best place to watch the race.” Most of the action seemed to take place in an area coming off one straightaway at speeds of up to 200 m.p.h. and into a short straightaway. After multiple headaches, a burnt neck and the occasional loss of hearing, the numbing sensation of these amazing machines and how they operate at such high speeds took control of my body. I was living the paradigm of all race fans! All of the controversy that surrounded last year’s race was a now a thing of the past, as the only controversy this year surrounded the drivers. Last year Roger Penske made a pledge to fix the damages to the track that caused the two-hour delay and he made good on his promise. Complaints were replaced with praise, as both drivers and fans alike praised the organizers for their valiant effort to create a world-class experience.
What caught my attention the most was the ability of Penske and IndyCar to engage the fans with a fun, hands-on experience. The fans had the opportunity to meet with the drivers, participate in go-kart racing, experience three nights of live entertainment, including Detroit’s own Dwele, enjoy good food and view a wonderful assortment of vendors. And for all that supposed rain, well it was essentially non-existent with an occasional mist on Saturday, providing a a little bit of comfort from that intense pre-summer heat. With hotel rooms booked months in advance and bars and restaurants populated with out-of-town guests, some coming from as far as Europe, the weekend’s events served as another success story in Detroit’s always-improving rebuilding process. The overall success of the event is proof that Detroit and Belle Isle have the capacity, the desire and the passion to continue to host events like the Grand Prix for many years to come. While the future of the race was once in jeopardy, it appears that the resiliency that this very region possesses will act as a template for attracting many more world-class events that will help Belle Isle and more importantly the city of Detroit resonate as a popular destination.
In the end I was able to take away a sense of pride. As I listened to Jay Farner, president of Quicken Loans, shout those three famous words, “start your engines,” I could feel all the hairs on my body stand at attention. As I saw the Quicken Loans signage on the straightaway leading toward turn four, I couldn’t help but marvel in the delight that I was part of something special. And as I watched AJ Allmendinger reach turn three in his #2 Quicken Loans car, I thought to myself, “only a handful of companies have the distinct honor to have their logo on one of these machines. What an amazing feeling it is to have our logo on one of them.” I have now begun my countdown to next year’s races, 363 days and counting! Head over to Vine and check out this volunteer’s views of turns three and four!