Payne: American Speed Festival revs up Detroit fall autopalooza

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

The third leg is officially in place for this fall’s Metro Detroit autopalooza.

The inaugural American Speed Festival car show will take place at Pontiac’s M1 Concourse Sept. 30-October 3, immediately after the 2021 Detroit Auto Show’s downsized Motor Bella. The twin M1 events, held at the region’s premier private motorsports club, will join the off-road Detroit 4Fest for an epic trifecta of southeast Michigan auto shows.

Supercars will run hot laps at the American Speed Festival.

Billed as a “celebration of speed — past, present and future,” the American Speed Festival is modeled after the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England, one of the world’s premier auto enthusiast events. Like Goodwood, American Speed Festival will feature a race track as its centerpiece: M1’s 1.5-mile Champion Motor Speedway.

“We’ve studied some of the best automotive events around the world, and we’re taking the best elements and bringing them here to M1 Concourse,” said Dave Sherman, interim CEO of Pontiac Motorsports Exposition that will manage the event. “This will truly be a celebration of racing and performance, and we will have experiences and elements that will appeal to everyone from eight to 80 years of age.”

In contrast to the September 21-26 Motor Bella show, which will focus on current production cars, American Speed Festival will celebrate exotic supercars as well as vintage classics and race cars. M1 got a taste of what to expect last summer when four, 1970-era Shadow Can Am race cars — one of them stuffed with a 1,000-horsepower Chevy V8 — rumbled around M1 to celebrate PME's creation.

The 2021 American Speed Festival will carry the theme, "Past, Present, and Future," show-casing classic from yesteryear - like these Shadow Can Am cars - and current models.

PME is the events arm of M1 Concourse, the newest race circuit in Michigan. While also taking place at M1, the Motor Bella events will be managed by the Detroit Auto Dealers Association. DADA sees the M1 event as a temporary bridge to the return of a full-blown, 2022 auto show at TCF Center in downtown Detroit — a prospect that is not guaranteed.

Detroit 4Fest, scheduled for September 25-26, will take advantage of another new metro-area destination, Holly Oaks ORV Park. It opened last fall to rave reviews from off-road motorheads as a playground for dirt-kicking, four-wheel-drive vehicles.

In addition to closed-track racing and 200 distinguished automobiles drawn from automakers and car collections, American Speed Festival will feature the Checkered Flag charity ball to benefit the Checkered Flag Challenge, a non-profit supporting worthy Pontiac causes.

“This is not just an ordinary car show,” said Sherman of American Speed Festival.  “It’s a celebration of all things automotive, mixed with premier food, wine and spirits that also make this a festival of the finer things in life.”

Each year, the American Speed Festival will honor a class of cars — and an industry legend. This year, Can Am race cars (like the Shadows) from the 1960s and 1970s will be the featured class, while the first “Master of Motorsports” award will go to Texas racing legend Jim Hall, who developed the innovative Chaparral Can Am cars.

Jim Hall's legendary Can Am Chaparral race cars will be featured at the 2021 American Speed Festival.

“What’s so important about having the Can Am cars here and honoring Jim Hall is that it fits right in with how we want to showcase innovation in racing and the automotive world,” said Tim Hartge, chief marketing officer of PME. “Jim is truly legendary for the advancements he made to racing in terms of aerodynamics and engineering advancements.”

George Levy, president of the Motorsport Hall of Fame of America and Hall's authorized biographer, added that, to “car crazy kids like me in the 1960s, Jim Hall was the Neil Armstrong of motorsports.”

The American Speed Festival will kick off on Thursday, September 30, with an exclusive “Dine and Drive” through the streets of Metro Detroit for behind the scenes peeks at the Motor City’s historic haunts. A Can Am Kick Off reception, open to the public, will follow.  

The focus moves to the track Friday and Saturday with high-speed runs featuring classics and state-of-the-art cyborgs. In addition to single-car time trials, there will be celebrity autograph sessions, seminars, and more. Special guests include Hall, racing legend David Hobbs, and local collector Ken Lingenfelter.

Sunday will showcase the American Speed Festival Exposition, a judged competition of the weekend's best cars.

PME’s Hartge celebrated the fall weekend’s back-to-back M1 shows: “This is the place to be at the end of September. You’ll find the best cars, the best food and spirits, and the best people in the industry… all gathering at M1 Concourse.  It is the best of the best and you won’t want to miss it.”

Tickets are on sale now. Information and a full schedule of events are available at

American Speed Festival schedule of events, Sept. 30-Oct. 3, 2021:


7:30 AM - Registration and Continental Breakfast at Event Center

8:30 AM - Guests leave from M1 Event Center and drive to The Lingenfelter Collection

9:30 AM - Guests arrive and tour The Lingenfelter Collection

11:00 AM - Guests leave The Lingenfelter Collection

12:00 PM - Guests arrive at The Automotive Hall of Fame for a strolling lunch

1:15 PM - Guests will tour The Henry Ford Backstage and Motorsports Display

4:00 PM - Guests leave The Henry Ford and drive to the M1 Concourse Event Center

5:00 PM - Guests arrive to M1 Concourse Event Center for a champagne toast

5:00PM–6:00PM - Cocktail hour


7:00 AM - Gates open

7:30 AM - Introduction Ceremony

7:45 AM - National Anthem

7:50 AM - Starting grid comes to life

8:00AM-11:15AM - Speed Ring runs begin - all 10 classes

11:15AM-12:45PM - Special vehicle driving demonstrations

12:45PM-4:00PM - Speed Ring runs resume - all 10 classes

4:00PM-5:00PM - Special vehicle driving demonstrations

5:00PM-9:00PM - ASF Garage Reveal at M1 Concourse


7:00 AM - Gates open

7:30 AM - National Anthem

7:45 AM - Starting grid comes to life

8:00 AM-11:15 AM - Speed Ring runs begin - all 10 classes

11:15 AM-12:45 PM - Special vehicle driving demonstrations

12:45 PM-4:00 PM - Speed Ring runs resume - all 10 classes

4:00 PM-5:00 PM - Special vehicle driving demonstrations

6:00 PM-10:00 PM - Checkered Flag Ball


8:00 AM - Gates open

9:00 AM - 3:00 PM - Vehicle Exposition, Judging, ASF Food and Wine Festival, and live music

3:0 0PM - 5:00 PM - Presentation of awards for Speed Ring and Exposition

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at or Twitter @HenryEPayne