Sponsor Story: Grand Prix Extends Chevy’s Heritage
Verizon IndyCar Series driver JR Hildebrand tried to focus on a question but he couldn’t keep his eyes off the sleek 1953 Firebird I, the first gas turbine automobile ever built and tested in the U.S.
Behind Hildebrand were row upon row of some of the most unique cars, trucks and experimental vehicles in any one location in the world.
Hildebrand, who drives the No. 21 Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing, was visiting the GM Heritage Center in Sterling Heights, where many of General Motors’ most historic models are housed.
“I grew up in a GM family,” said Hildebrand, who will compete at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear at Belle Isle, June 2-4. “My dad was a GM fan … he loved Corvettes and Chevy trucks … it’s in my blood now.”
Hildebrand, whose daily driver is a Cadillac CTS-V Wagon, tries to stop at the Heritage Center each time he comes to Detroit. He also recently spoke to a group of Detroit Public School District students on the importance of STEM education and invited the students to Comerica Bank Free Prix Day on Belle Isle, June 2, as guests of Comerica.
Hildebrand was taking advantage of an ever-growing GM legacy in southeast Michigan of development and innovation sites, driven and showcased by such places as the Heritage Center, the GM Proving Grounds in Wixom, the GM Powertrain Performance and Racing Center in Pontiac, the GM Tech Center in Warren, and, of course, the mothership, General Motors World Headquarters at the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit.
“I grew up a Chevy fan … and now I have the opportunity to drive an Indy car and have the Chevy logo on my car. The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear is another great example of GM’s dedication to racing … and its design and technology,” said Hildebrand.
This year’s Grand Prix stamps another chapter in Chevrolet’s long and rich racing heritage, begun in the early part of the 20th century, when Chevrolet founder Louis Chevrolet and his brothers Arthur and Gaston competed in the Indianapolis 500, Gaston winning the 1920 race.
Chevrolet’s success in open-wheel racing has continued to grow since 1989 in the Motor City, when CART replaced the Formula 1 Detroit Grand Prix in the downtown streets, moving to Belle Isle in 1992.
The Bowtie, in fact, has amassed a total of 170 major open-wheel victories, 10 driver championships and nine Indy 500 wins to go along with five victories at Belle Isle since the Grand Prix returned in 2012.
“Belle Isle is such a cool venue,” said Hildebrand. “And you can’t help but be motivated as a driver by Chevy’s success across the whole racing platform.”
The importance of racing to Chevrolet and Detroit – GM’s home – is being paced by the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear.
“For us to be in racing – over 100 years after Chevrolet’s founding – is very special,” said Jim Campbell, GM U.S. vice president of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “We race to learn … to train engineers … to win races and lift our image … and to connect with customers. We are really proud to be part of the Detroit Grand Prix, which attracts fans from all over Michigan and the country.”
Campbell emphasized just how much the race on Belle Isle, which was resurrected in 2012 following the economic downturn in Detroit from 2009-2011, means to Chevrolet’s racing DNA and the city’s continued revival.
“We are very proud to have world class racing here in the city of Detroit,” said Campbell. “As an automotive company, racing is part of our heritage and history and the passion and excitement it creates for our current and prospective customers. Racing is a great platform for us to learn from and take our cars and trucks to the showroom. The Detroit Grand Prix is a catalyst in Chevrolet’s continued success.”
In 2016, Chevrolet cars swept the “Chevy Dual in Detroit” on Belle Isle, the only doubleheader race weekend on the Verizon IndyCar Series calendar. Sebastien Bourdais (KVSH Racing) and Will Power (Team Penske) drove to victory in races 1 and 2, powered by their Chevrolet 2.2L Twin Turbo V-6 engines.
“Chevrolet’s re-entry into IndyCar in 2012 … really helped in the ability to bring the Detroit Grand Prix back to Belle Isle,” said Campbell of Chevy’s return to the series. “GM is headquartered in Detroit … we have a large number of suppliers in the area … we want to do our very best at Belle Isle.”
Coming off the Indy 500, the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear is critically important for drivers and teams. Like Indy, there are double points to be earned.
“The cars are the stars in Detroit during race weekend,” said Campbell. “It’s such a special weekend with world-wide TV coverage of the race and the city. We appreciate the support from the city … the state … and from the Belle Isle Conservancy and the community in allowing us to partner on the island. We love our sports in Detroit, for sure, and the Grand Prix is a part of that passion and the heritage of Chevrolet.”
A remarkably resilient driver, Hildebrand understands racing history and heritage.
“Chevrolet is setting the bar (in racing),” said Hildebrand. “It’s a cool dynamic. The Detroit Grand Prix is a great example of Chevy’s commitment.”
This story is provided and presented by our sponsor Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Presented by Lear