June 1, 2013 at 9:23 pm

Terry Foster

No ducking fact we need Grand Prix success

Terry Foster gets Fast and Furious
Terry Foster gets Fast and Furious: The sportswriter takes a lap around the Belle Isle course in an IndyCar and calls it "the experience of a lifetime."

Detroit For the second year in a row, the Belle Isle track was shut down, but this time it was for a lighter moment.

That's because a group of track officials became heroes for an unusual family of trespassing ducks. Five brave souls became modern day versions of Bud Denker, the track organizer who got on his hands and knees last year to pull up crumbled pieces of track to help restart the shortened Belle Isle Grand Prix that brought shame to the city and race.

On Thursday the Belle Isle crew was credited with removing a family of ducks that invaded the track and caused the second of three red flags during the practice session for the IZOD Indy Car Series. They braved bites from an agitated momma duck protecting her young.

This time it wasn't track flying around. It was momma duck and her five offspring that somehow found their way on the back stretch of the 2.35-mile track and went for a leisurely stroll. Momma must be a regular because she knew to stay out of the race line and avoid being duck soup.

The baby ducks were difficult to catch because they had moves like Barry Sanders, and momma duck was just plain ticked off.

Track officials chased down the ducks and after a brief scuffle the ducks were removed, momentarily detained and then released for an afternoon swim.

Spectators enjoy a laugh

The few that got to see the spectacle got a hearty laugh. But it was no laughing matter a year ago when the track broke up in several spots, causing a two-hour delay and the race to be shortened by 30 laps to 60. The track was not ready following four years off the circuit.

"We are very confident all has been taken care of," race general manager Charles Burns said.

A year later, the track was near perfect. Belle Isle was spectacular, also. There are only small cosmetic changes that are needed before the Dual in Detroit gets under way.

There are some small wet spots following an afternoon rain that need to be touched up for fans who want to enjoy concerts and food on the infield. The racing should be competitive and Belle Isle looks its best since last year's race.

Track looking good

There is only one worry.

Will the actual track hold up?

Last year's race was an embarrassment. It isn't often you see a big wig like Denker on his hands and knees trying to patch things up after the track literally exploded in some sections. Burns swears the track will hold up after officials laid out 100,000 square feet of new track. It had better. This cannot happen two years in a row.

Scott Dixon managed to cross the finish line first last year as other cars spun like tops around him. The toughest part for Dixon and the others was waiting two hours while officials scrambled to piece the track back together.

It was costly to driver James Hinchcliffe, who was knocked out in lap 44 when a piece of track jumped up and sent him into the tires.

"I had seen this piece of track. It looked like a tar snake," Hinchcliffe told the Canadian media a few days after the race. "I was astonished how big it was and how close to the racing line it was."

I remember "the tar snake" Hinchcliffe spoke of. It was the same one that Denker pulled from the track. Officials patched as best they could, but the track was never the same and rain ruined the rest of the race.

It would have worse, but the race was moved to a secondary channel and fewer than a million people were watching when it ended.

I am confident Detroit will get it right this year. The track will hold up and the city will look good again. But they might want to tighten up security just in case momma duck wants to take one more walk on the wild side with the kids.


(313) 222-1494


Emergency personnel try to capture a mother duck and her ducklings on the back straightaway during practice. / Steve Perez/Detroit News
More Terry Foster