By George B. Eichorn
Will Power sits atop the Verizon IndyCar Series world as Detroit plays host to the only doubleheader weekend in the popular motorsports circuit.
 
Power, the 37-year-old Austrailian and Indianapolis 500 champion, drives for Detroit's own Roger Penske, and motors into town with his first Indy 500 title. Now comes another tough act, to keep the momentum going for Team Penske and challenge for supremacy at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, June 1-3.
 
In addition to Saturday and Sunday 70-lap IndyCar Series races, Belle Isle hosts the autos of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championsip, the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli and rugged trucks of the SPEED Energy Stadium SUPER Trucks. This is the final year of the multi-year contract between the Detroit Grand Prix and the City of Detroit. 
 
The first Detroit Grand Prix was in 1982 and it started as a Formula One race through the streets of downtown Detroit before becoming a CART-sanctioned race in 1989. The race moved to Belle Isle in 1992 continuing under the CART/Champ Car banner until 2001. 
 
After the success of the Super Bowl in Detroit in 2006, Penske and the Downtown Detroit Partnership (DDP) teamed up to bring an annual national sporting event to the city of Detroit and spearheaded the return of the Grand Prix in 2007 on Belle Isle. After challenging economic times delayed the event after the 2008 season, the Grand Prix returned in 2012.
 
The Raceway at Belle Isle Park street circuit is 2.3 miles on the Scott Fountain end of the island. Belle Isle is now maintained as a state park by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Many groups vocally oppose the closing of much of the island for months to build and then tear-down the race circuit. But the Grand Prix says it generates more than $45 million in total spending annually in Metro Detroit.
 
The DGP and its partners since 2007 have made more than $13 million in lasting improvements to the island, including:
 Repairing damaged lighting and drainage systems
• Renovation of Scott Fountain, the Belle Isle Casino and the Belle Isle Boat Club
• Installing new pedestrian bridges and playscapes
• Working with Platinum Equity to install new LED lights on MacArthur Bridge and around the Scott Fountain
• New areas also to be used by park visitors for parking and community events and activities year round
• Creating pedestrian walkways and new bicycle paths on Belle Isle
 
Graham Rahal of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing became the first driver to sweep both IndyCar Series races in the 2017 Detroit Grand Prix. Teammates Ricky and Jordan Taylor from Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) won the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race last season, in the first year of the Cadillac DPi cars on Belle Isle. The win was the fifth consecutive win for the Taylor's to start the 2017 season.
 
Detroit is afforded live national television coverage as ABC Sports covers the races Saturday and Sunday at 3:30 p.m. Superstation 910 AM also broadcasts the races live. Shuttle parking is available at Cobo Center and the Renaissance Center. Ticket sales are running 15 percent ahead of last year's figures. You can visit DetroitGP.com/Tickets or call 866-464-7749.
 
The Grand Prix features a number of exciting engagement activities in the Meijer Fan Zone.  The 96.3 WDVD/NASH FM 93.1 Entertainment Stage will feature live music all weekend, headlined by pop duo "A Great Big World" on Saturdayand country music star David Nail on Sunday. Eats and refreshments are in the Budweiser Food Court, featuring the Taste of Detroit with local vendor trucks and more. 
 
The popular Detroit Sports District returns featuring interactive displays from Detroit professional sports teams with appearances from former and current local sports athletes. The Meijer Fan Zone also features the Party Pit with tailgating games like Bubble Soccer and giant Jenga, an arts and crafts show and more. For complete information on the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, visit www.DetroitGP.com
Martin Eichorn contributed. Reach George Eichorn at geichorn@yahoo.com.