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Grand Prix in Detroit hits a speed bump with potholes, flying asphalt
Chunks of sealer were even flying into the suites
There were such high hopes for the return of the Grand Prix to Detroit.

But the world’s elite race-car drivers quickly learned what Michiganders have known their whole lives: Potholes are a pain in the butt, not to mention the tires and the undercarriages of expensive racing machines.

Problems with the 2.1-mile track at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle, including large gashes and potholes, caused a crash, sent asphalt flying and delayed the nationally broadcast race on Lap 45.

A chunk of the track launched over the chain link fence and smacked Ann-Marie Smihal of Grosse Pointe in the thigh. She wasn’t hurt.

“It was just shocking, and I’m just glad it didn’t hit my children,” she said.

The Smihals -- Ann-Marie, her husband, Tony, and their two children Bennett and Audrey — were guests in a private chalet, very close to the track between turns 10 and 11.

“My husband had tipped us off to the possibility,” she said. “He’s very observant and saw the asphalt start tearing up.”

Race organizers said the material used on the track has a lifespan, and “since we haven’t run here for so long, it just kind of lost its grip and started coming undone,” said IndyCar race director Beaux Barfield.

The last time the race was run on Belle Isle was 2008. It was cancelled because of the bad economy, especially for the auto industry, major sponsors of the race. The Smihals still planned to stay till the end. A delay of about two hours allowed crews to make repairs to the track. The race, shortened to 60 laps instead of 90 laps, started again just before 7 p.m. — but light rain quickly caused more problems for drivers before the race ended at about 7:20 p.m. Driver Scott Dixon won. Detroit GP

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