May 30, 2014 at 1:00 am

Hairy truck race gets Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix off to roaring start

Detroit The first race of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix weekend on Belle Isle was a wild one Friday afternoon, with trucks soaring 15 feet in the air off ramps, then blistering the straightaway at 150 mph.

In the end, one truck slammed into the wall, another landed upside down and E.J. Viso escaped to win the crash-shortened event after thrilling thousands of fans on Free Prix Day on the island.

Robby Gordon, founder of the SPEED Energy Stadium SUPER Truck Series, finished second and Arie Luyendyk Jr., third.

Its a whole new experience, said Viso, a former IndyCar driver. You can see it on two and three wheels in the corner and its definitely super fun. Its always scary, four wheels are scary, too. It moves everywhere. Braking is scary, just outbraking the guy who is trying to pass you.

And, Viso picked up Keegan Kincaid after Kincaid climbed out of his upside-down vehicle unharmed.

I saw the poor guy with the car upside down, red cheeks, but he was fine, said Viso, who gave Kincaid a ride to the pits.

Gordon said the drivers usually continue to drive if a truck is sidelined or a victim of a rollover.

I believe we had three more (laps) to go, but they were struggling to roll it over, Gordon said. I think Arie would have loved to see it go back green. We all would have, but the most important thing is we run three races (this weekend) and well run them like three individual heat races, add the points up and have a weekend winner.

When asked if the drivers were a close-knit group of guys, Viso replied: When I first stepped in and asked where the rule book was, they (Gordon) said Whats that, at that point I knew it would be fun.

Luyendyk talked about his experience after being just one corner away from winning at Indianapolis last weekend when Gordon made contact with him.

After the caution (from the first accident when leader Henrique Cisneros hit the wall) I tried to strike on E.J., tried to jump next to him and go to the inside and that opened the door for Robby, Luyendyk said. He (Gordon) got through and then went side-by-side down the back straightaway. It was a good battle. The trucks are so much fun to drive. Its like anything Ive driven or E.J.s driven. The basic principles are there, but its hard to utilize the skill set from IndyCar and bring it over to this since its so different. We still have two great races coming up.

I did him dirty last week and thats the truth, said Gordon, who bumped Luyendyk out of the way at Indy to grab the win. Thats one of the things about these trucks, you can move people out of the way. Its a mixture of NASCAR as well, where you can bump somebody up, move them up a groove and thats what I did. Im bummed about it because I know better than that and the reality is it didnt need to happen.

Gordon, who put the series together a year ago, was excited to be back on Belle Isle. He had his debut in IndyCar in 1992 with Ganassi Racing, then won the IndyCar race in 95 with car owner Derrick Walker on the island.

Its on an island, how cool is that? Gordon said. Its in the city of automotive history, where the Big Three are still located and its great to show them in person what were doing. Weve been telling them about it for a year and three months, but we wanted to show them because the trucks are so different than anything else in motor sports.

Ive read it from somebody in Australia where they said leave it to the Yanks to mix Formula One and Monster Trucks, and the reality is when you sit back and think about it, its kind of funny, but we have the jumps that people like to see in Monster Trucks and we have the corners like Formula One/IndyCar race tracks. That third and fourth dimension that you normally dont see from automobile motor sports, the third dimension is drifting and obviously thats very popular and then you throw some monster jam style jumps in it and youve got Stadium SUPER Truck which is pretty cool.

Gordon feels the IndyCar series is as competitive as ever.

IndyCar is as strong as it has been since 95 right now and Im very excited for IndyCar, excited with what I saw with the Indy 500. I thought it was an awesome race and were just trying to build as much momentum as we can with them. I think we bring a different audience, a younger audience and the kids love us.

Gordon has reason to enjoy the ending of the Indy 500 since his brother-in-law, Ryan Hunter-Reay took the lead on the last lap from Helio Castroneves and held on to win. Gordons younger sister, Beccy, is married to Hunter-Reay.

He was impressive, as a driver where he did some very brave moves, said Gordon of Hunter-Reay. The move down in Turn 3, I dont mean to say is uncharacteristic for Ryan, hes a pretty calculated, pretty conservative guy, but obviously after his Long Beach incident (crash while going for the lead) hes still very aggressive, and when he put that move on Castroneves, that was probably the move that won him the race.

When asked if his sister would drive one of the trucks, Gordon replied: It would be fun to watch Beccy drive one, but heck, Id rather put Ryan in one for the X Games since hes in Texas anyways next Saturday night. We run in the X Games next Sunday in Austin so Im going to heckle him all weekend long and challenge him to come next week.

Schedule

Course: The Raceway at Belle Isle Park (street course, 2.36 miles)

SATURDAY

Gates open: 7:15 a.m.

7:10-7:45 a.m.: World Challenge qualifying

8-8:20 a.m.: United SportsCar Championship warm-up

8:35-9:35 a.m.: IndyCar Series qualifying

9:45-10:30 a.m.: United SportsCar Championship autograph session

10:05-11:05 a.m.: World Challenge race

11:05-11:20 a.m.: World Challenge ceremonies

Noon-12:10 p.m.: United SportsCar Championship prerace

12:10-1:55 p.m.: United SportsCar Championship race

1:55-2:15 p.m.: United SportsCar Championship ceremonies

2:10-2:25 p.m.: Super Truck Series practice

3-3:30 p.m.: IndyCar Series prerace

3:30-6 p.m.: Indy Dual in Detroit

5:45 p.m.: IndyCar Series ceremonies

6:15-7:45 p.m.: Concert (Lifehouse)

SUNDAY

Gates open: 7:30 a.m.

7:35-7:55 a.m.: Super Truck Series qualifying

8:15-8:45 a.m.: World Challenge warm-up

10-10:30 a.m.: IndyCar Series qualifying

11-noon: World Challenge race

Noon-12:20 p.m.: World Challenge ceremonies

Noon-1 p.m.: IndyCar Series autograph session

12:30-1:30 p.m.: Concert (Shaggy, with Rayvon)

1:55-2:25 p.m.: Super Truck Series race

2:25-2:35 p.m.: Super Truck Series ceremonies

3-3:30 p.m.: IndyCar Series prerace

3:30-6 p.m.: Indy Dual in Detroit

5:45 p.m.: IndyCar Series ceremonies

Burt Jenner (50) and Scotty Steele (5) jump between Turns 8 and 9, during race number one of the Stadium Super Truck Series. / Steve Perez / The Detroit News