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DATE News (chronologically)
08/05/11
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If Ohio can host IndyCar, why can't Detroit?  
The Detroit race was big in CART's heyday.  Then Anton George created the IRL and killed the sport
It hurts me when I look at the racing calendar and find the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, this weekend is hosting what Detroit did a few years ago.

Starting today, the track will be the scene of IZOD IndyCar Series and American Le Mans Series (ALMS) activity -- the same combo we had at Belle Isle in 2007-08 before the economy tanked and Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick flamed out.

Birmingham businessman and Indy Car owner Roger Penske and ALMS CEO Scott Atherton had been the driving forces in the return of the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix in 2007, after a six-year absence.

For two years the racing along the Detroit River was as good, I believe, as any in the country, with new pits and paddock area at Belle Isle for teams and more grandstands for spectators.

Downtown Detroit looked spectacular from the island; the drivers enjoyed being here, and the Motor City was as it should be -- the automotive center of the world.

I have nothing against Mid-Ohio: It's a gem of a road course, and the viewing areas are second to none in motor sports. I guess I would just like to see the action return to the Detroit area, and so, I'm sure, would Penske and Atherton, with whom I spoke earlier in the week.

Atherton is focused on bringing back ALMS to Belle Isle and showcasing one of the best sports car series anywhere.

Penske, if he can entice enough businesses to support another chapter in the history of the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, would gladly return next year or in 2013 with his Team Penske outfit provided a date could be inked with the IndyCar Series folks.

"We'd be back without hesitation," Atherton said. "Detroit works for us. We want to be at Belle Isle. It's a great location for the ALMS."

Logistically, the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix wouldn't be tough to restore. The track is there; the concrete barriers can be erected easily enough, and volunteer corner workers and other track staff called in.

Corporate sponsors are needed, and ticket prices should be re-evaluated. But with the Big Three automakers growing more robust, there are signs of better days ahead in southeast Michigan -- or we hope so.

The Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix wasn't a cure-all in the past and wouldn't be in the future.

Some Detroiters loathed the noise and the disruption of their privacy.

Others felt the track still too narrow for good racing, while there were plenty of people who just didn't give a darn about a world-class racing event being held in their backyard.

That's fine -- there were still lots of fans who enjoyed the racing on Belle Isle with their families and friends, and tourists who'd flown in from around the country and the globe to be there.

Down the road in Ohio, they'll pack Mid-Ohio as the IndyCars and ALMS machines race around the course along with several other supporting series.

Mayor Dave Bing, if you read this, and Roger Penske, when you get a copy: Belle Isle is ready for another shot of adrenaline, and so are race fans.

It's time to restore the roar, guys.  Detroit Free Press

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