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« Sooooo What Was the Fan Experience at the Indy 500 This Year? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? | Main | IndyCar & NASCAR Execs Should Seek Average Fan Treatment »

June 02, 2014


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MoreFrontWing's Steph Wallcraft was live-blogging from Belle Isle this weekend, so there's quite a bit of good stuff over on MFW about attending the race as a fan.

I'll be at the next two (uh... three) races, so I'm prepping my 4 cents.


Hi Pdog, Long time reader/follower, first time commenter. Well, maybe this isn't the first time, I can't remember.

Anyway, I've been to 4 Detroit Belle Isle Grands Prix (07, 12,13,14). The last two years I went only on Saturday because it's the best value in racing, IMO (Sports car race, full IndyCar race, and support series all for one ticket). The fan experience is top notch, as all the volunteers on the island are incredibly friendly and concerned with putting a good face on the city of Detroit for all the visitors. Every year since the return in 2012 they've diligently worked to make the experience better for the following year. After the track came up and ate Hinch in 2012, we waited it out and saw the finish, after which there was an absolute downpour. Bud Denker, one of Penske's right hand men, was sitting on his scooter apologizing to the fans walking out, promising to do better. This resonated with me then and still does today. In 2013, they fixed a bunch of the roads and added the straight between turns 2 and 3 for passing, plus they made the bussing situation to the island much better. This year, the busses from downtown to the island were free for the first time, again in the name of improving the experience. Next year, they're repaving most of the track and maybe straightening out the entrance to the bus stop (turn 7, I think?) at the end of the strand. Nobody ever clarified that change but all the track maps don't show the left turn kink at the end of the straight so it seems like that's something on the to-do list. Additionally, the state has taken over control of the park from the bankrupt city, so I expect other more subtle improvements on the grounds.

I know you (seemingly sarcastically) mentioned all the chalets repeatedly over the weekend, but to be honest I think it is good for both IndyCar and the event. It gets people to come to the track and experience IndyCar who maybe wouldn't otherwise, while getting money from a sponsor. Seems smart to me. I think all of the chalets in the bus stop area were reserved for Penske this year, they had a huge tent in that area. I really need to find a way in there next year. The added chalets on the front stretch also possibly made the other grandstands look more full. I sat in grandstand 1 (behind the pits) and it was maybe 70% full Saturday, I was traveling Sunday so I'm not sure about that. Grandstand 2 (facing down the front stretch) looked really full Saturday and is probably where I will sit next year unless I get an elusive Penske tent ticket.

The paddock pass is $25/day and again is worth every penny. Getting up close to the drivers, crews, and cars is my favorite part of the event. Not sure how this price/access compares to other tracks, but I am happy to pay for it every year.

In short, I look forward to the Grand Prix every year and am so happy that it seems to be here to stay. The fan experience is great, the passing with the DW12 is so much better than the old car (watching Graham bomb it into turn 1 this year was great), and the beauty of the place is just an added benefit. It makes me a little sad to see people criticize the event without experiencing it, and I think some of this might be from following up the 500. I hope in the future they move it a few weeks later so we can get the GTLM cars on Saturday and maybe there will be a little less criticism from the oval lovers.

Tim Williams

It's really great from a fan perspective. I grew up going to the race and it's light years better now (paved paddock!!).

This year we sat in turn 1 for the first race. That's been my preferred spot for years because you get start/finish, the pits, and a passing-zone-if-you-dare in turn 1.

I wanted to check out turn 3 for the second race and it was fantastic. We had the top row of the grandstand, which was nice because, in addition to seeing a good chunk of the straight and the main passing zone on the track, we could turn around and see the straight heading into 4 and turn 4. Three was where most of the action was. It's a tiny grandstand and it was only half full (as opposed to the front straight that was packed), but I'd sit there again in a heartbeat.

The event is very well organized, the volunteers are great, and the island is gorgeous! It took around an hour to get the bus off the island and another half hour to get to downtown bc of traffic, but you're on a freaking Island, so....

If anyone hasn't been and is thinking of going I would highly recommend it.


Ron Ford

Bill, thanks for encouraging the comments above from folks who were at the race. Interesting and enlightening stuff.

TV ratings are overrated. Ratings from people who were at a race should be more important IMHO.


Belle Isle was ok. But as I wrote rather extensively in my opinion ok isn't good enough. Certainly it is better than pre-dw 12. Overall I've been a bit disappointed with 2014 Indycar. It has been largely strategy and fuel mileage, and that is not what I got into Indycar for. I can't say I'm excited for the long term future of Belle Isle, but I do hope that it becomes more Montreal like. Money been spent on Indycar is good, but I hate how the money and attention goes so often to tracks which produce less than great racing. It reminds me of a line from Game of Thrones "The worst ones always live." To re-write that line for Indycar "the worst tracks always get more money." Well, except for Nashville.

As for attending the event while I've never been, from what I have heard people who went enjoyed it. Which is nice, but does not make it compelling TV, a good race, or excite me a whole lot.


Thanks for the comments, especially from people who went to the race. Most encouraging to me is to hear praises of the fan-friendly attitudes of the people working the race.

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