Detroit: They tried to put lipstick on a pig
Why is Detroit getting so much praise for screwing up? Grand Prix organizers tried to put lipstick on Belle Isle, but the ugliness of a neglected island came out during the race when the track got beat up by the roaring cars.
Yes, race organizers should be applauded for getting the event back in Detroit. And yes, what happened Sunday — with track divots being exposed by the cars — has happened at other tracks. But that doesn't mean it should have happened.
We've ignored Belle Isle for years. I took a spin around the island three times in the last month and during every stop I saw someone repairing a road that was full of cracks, potholes and crumbling pavement. It was literally a patchwork repair job, and the net result was a two-hour delay and a race shortened from 90 to 60 laps Sunday.
I got to ride with Mario Andretti in a two-man race car last week and the track is every bit as bumpy as drivers say it is. I actually liked the bumps; it made the ride more thrilling. Of course, I wasn't involved in a pressure race for three hours. But here's the problem: We've heard the same complaints every year of the Belle Isle Grand Prix.
"It's too bumpy," drivers complained.
Yet nothing was done about it.
The smart thing would be to repave the entire track. But is that financially possible? Can race organizers and a cash-strapped city make it work? If the Belle Isle Grand Prix is really serious about making this a great race, that is exactly what will happen.
One more thing about the race: It's a great event, but not a great race. There's not enough passing, not enough race strategy. Scott Dixon took the lead and the only drama was whether or not he'd be swallowed up by a pothole. The cars mostly ran single file, as they almost always do. That's not racing; that's simply Michigan's fastest parade.
I made a point to get out of the press center and walk around during race weekend. There were concerts, driver question-and-answer sessions, and plenty of food, drink and T-shirts to buy. It was a fun weekend. But Belle Isle is full of blemishes, and that couldn't be masked during race weekend.
The island needs better care, and if that happens, the race will be better. If the race is better, Detroit will look better. It's as simple as that. Detroit News