Rain didn’t dampen spirit at Belle Isle Grand Prix

Rain ruined what otherwise could have been a great Detroit GP weekend

Despite gray skies, there remained a green light.

The endless rain couldn't wash away the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix's stubbornness.

It would've been easy to wave the white flag and surrender to an unwinnable weekend. The weather absolutely stunk once again. The last day of May felt every bit like the last day of November.

It was impossible to stage a fast-paced race worthy of the time and treasure invested in the overall improvements at the Belle Isle raceway. The pools of standing water on the parts of the track were so bad early Sunday morning that there were geese floating on them.

"But we got the race in," said triumphant race chairman Bud Denker. "It was important that we rewarded those fans who stuck it out through the weather with a finish instead of another red-flagged race. There's nothing you can do about the weather. But I thought we did the very best we could considering the factors that were certainly working against us the last two days."

Not quitting was worthy of a champagne shower.

Neither of the Dual in Detroit races went the full 70 laps. The first race only went 47 laps Saturday before it was called because of an impending thunderstorm threat. Sebastien Bourdais needed only 68 laps to win Sunday's race because the wet track conditions turned it into a timed race. Two hours or 70 laps. The latter was unlikely considering there were six caution flags in the final 31 laps.

The biggest winner was the redesigned course. The irony was that widening the lanes and additional concrete foundation took second billing to the improved drainage underneath the track.

"If not for the new drainage system," Denker said, "we don't get any of these races in."

It's too bad the weather didn't cooperate. It had a definite effect on attendance. But there were small pockets of diehards still in the seats when Bourdais took the checkered flag.

"(Roger Penske) has a pretty impressive Rolodex," Denker said with a chuckle, "and he's much closer to God than I am. But I guess he couldn't get Mother Nature to return his calls."

Denker adamantly declared around 9 a.m. Sunday there would be racing later in the afternoon. National Weather Service radar suggested a reduced likelihood of precipitation around the scheduled 3:50 p.m. race start time. But there were also contingency plans made, an arrangement with ESPN2 to cover the race today if necessary. Detroit Free Press

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