A big shoe falls as 2009 Detroit Grand Prix cancelled!

logo-news-dbigpShock.  That’s the only word to describe what I felt when WXYZ TV in Detroit Thursday evening announced that the 2009 Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle was being cancelled. Not believing what I heard, I checked with my main Indy guy Robin Miller, who confirmed it, and moments later, a story appeared on-line at the Detroit Free Press.

Two years ago, Roger Penske brought back racing to Detroit and Belle Isle by spending at least 7 million dollars of his own money to turn what was a joke of a race facility into a crown jewel.  Fans came flocking back.  Both years Saturday and Sunday were sold out, but now the economy has done in even The Captain.

I’ve been proud to be part of the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix the last two years as the lead track announcer.  I was proud of what the facility on Belle Isle had become, world class.  I was proud that Detroit was able to shine worldwide on television with visuals that rivaled Formula One in Monaco.  Now, that is all gone.

This decision had to be one of the toughest that Roger Penske may ever have had to make. 

Roger has become the biggest cheerleader for beleagured Detroit that there is.  From first being the Chairman for Superbowl XL that through his leadership had even Detroit bashing media types singing the praises of Motown by the end of their stay here, to spending his own money with no hope of ever getting any back on the Detroit Grand Prix, Roger Penske has done his all for his adopted home.

Roger Penske doesn’t fail, or if he does, he makes sure it doesn’t happen again..  The only time I can remember of failure was at Indianapolis when his cars shocked the world by not qualifying for the 1995 Indy 500.  He didn’t get a chance to overcome that failure until 2001 thanks to the CART/IRL split and only had his cars finish 1-2 in his return to the Brickyard.  I’m hoping history repeats itself and in 2010 Roger Penske triumphantly announces the return of the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix.  Until then, thanks Roger for not giving up on Detroit.  We won’t give up on you or the Grand Prix.


DETROIT, Mich. (December 19, 2008) – Officials for the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix announced today that the 2009 event will be postponed due to the difficult economic conditions prevalent in southeast Michigan and across the nation. 

“The economic environment that our region, state and country faces, both today and in 2009, is difficult,” said Roger Penske, Chairman of the Downtown Detroit Partnership. “It is unfortunate that we must postpone the 2009 Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix as sponsorship opportunities and support has proven to be very challenging for the event in the near term.” 

The Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix has brought tremendous benefit to Belle Isle Park and to the region since the event returned world-class auto racing back to the Motor City for the first time in more than six years in 2007. Both the 2007 and 2008 races established themselves as one of Detroit’s most popular summertime events, featuring both the American Le Mans Series and the IndyCar Series. 

Over $7 million in infrastructure improvements have been made to Belle Isle since the return of the Grand Prix, including the paving of roadways, repairing or replacing damaged lighting and drainage, landscaping, the renovation of the Belle Isle Casino and Scott Fountain and the installation of pedestrian bridges, children’s playgrounds and irrigation systems on the island.  

According to a joint study conducted this year by the event and the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau (DMCVB), the Grand Prix generated over $55.2 million in economic impact for metropolitan Detroit in 2008 and another $12.8 million in direct spending throughout Detroit and its surrounding tri-county area. 

This year’s study by the DMCVB also revealed the Grand Prix helped attract thousands of visitors to the area as 28% of event attendees came to Detroit from outside the tri-county region and 52% of those visitors came from outside the state of Michigan. 

“I want to thank all of the fans that have supported the 2007 and 2008 Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix events,” said Bud Denker, Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix Event Chairman.  “Over 100,000 people attended each of the past two Grand Prix races and we are hopeful we can extend the excitement of world-class racing on Belle Isle in the future. We also want to thank the City of Detroit, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the City of Windsor for their partnerships. The Grand Prix would not have been possible without the support of more than 50 corporations including Bridgestone/Firestone, Bosch, Comerica Bank, General Motors, Meijer, Caesars Windsor, Charter One Bank, Pepsi, MGM Grand Detroit and many others. Finally, the over 1,000 Grand Prix volunteers were the best ambassadors of any race in North America and we say thanks to them. If the economic conditions improve, we hope to be able to bring the event back to Detroit in the summer of 2010.” 

The Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix is a 501(c)3, non-profit corporation and a subsidiary of the Downtown Detroit Partnership. 

Further information on the future of the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix will be announced in 2009 and will be found at the event’s official web site, www.detroitgp.com.



  1. Wow.
    No IRL in the Mitten in ’09; no F1 in North America in ’09; i’m stunned.
    Boo this.

  2. How awful. I did not make much of a point of going to the IRL race on Sunday, but for the past two years, I could not be paid enough to miss the ALMS race on Saturday. I’m REALLY gonna miss it this year! I guess I’ll have to trek down to Mid Ohio, provided that’s not cancelled as well. Then again, if Audi is out, and Corvette is moving to GT2, I guess the series won’t be much like it was this year anyway.

  3. It’s a crying shame to hear about this. This is one thing the Detroit area does not need right now.
    Why not cancel the 2009 North American International Auto Show too! It has come to my understanding that “several” overseas manufacturers have pulled out of this years events because of world economics! ” YET” The show will go on!
    I truly feel the powers to be are jumping the gun on this one.
    I have to have read any reports that other events in any or all other forms of motorsports are being cancelled for ’09 because of tough economical times.
    I hope this does not start a domino effect…

  4. Donald,
    I agree with your assessment, but this problem may just be confined to the IRL, and the problems there might just be bigger than they want us to know. My 2 cents, but since this race is only 2 years old, then canceled, it may just be a symptom of a bigger problem.

  5. 16tjAWnxPpOOl

  6. Here’s another poke at the newly formed unified open-wheel series under the IRL Banner:

    On February 24th there was announcement that the United States will be fielding an “All-American” based Formula-1 team in 2010.
    This is only one year away from reality! This includes chassis, engine, R&D, and completion in under this time frame in order for testing to begin at this 2009 seasons end.

    Can someone tell me why then the IRL needs till 2011(maybe even 2012) to reconfigure their chassis, and engine, programs?

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but Champ Car redesigned their chassis design in about, from start to completion, in 18 months! Now it’s Moth-Balled!

    IRL! This should be your wake up call!
    If this USF-1 program takes off, you can easily kiss the IRL good-bye, whether or not your poster girl stays in your series or not!

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