Texas posturing but Detroit committed to keeping prime date for IndyCar race

By David Goricki
The Detroit News
Alexander Rossi drives in Race 2 in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle on June 3.

The goal of Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix race chairman Bud Denker is to keep the IndyCar doubleheader on Belle Isle the week after the Indianapolis 500, despite Eddie Gossage wanting the Texas Motor Speedway to steal that date away.

Gossage, promoter of the Texas track, has been very vocal about his desire to host the IndyCar race the week after the Indy 500. This year the Texas race was on June 9, the week after the Detroit race.

The Texas race took place the week after the Indy 500 from 1997 to 2005, and again in 2010 and 2011, before Denker and Belle Isle wrestled it away in 2012.

“This race should be the race after Indy,” Gossage told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “If you’re trying to capture fans who enjoy the Indy 500 and want to watch the next race, do you want them to see Detroit’s temporary street course?

“Or do you want them to see racing on one of the grand ovals for Indy Car? I would certainly fix that, it’d be good for IndyCar; it’d be good for Texas Motor Speedway.”

It might be good for Gossage and Texas Motor Speedway, but not for Denker and the Belle Isle race organizers.

“Eddie’s voiced that opinion for quite some time,” Denker told The Detroit News on Wednesday. “In fact, I think he’s voiced it since the inception of our event here in Detroit when we moved in 2012 to our date after Indy. We know how important it is that we have that date, not just from the coattails of the Indy 500 but from the environment in Michigan. People get up and leave the week after our event as schools close and kids head up north with their families, so that week is imperative for us.

“That date, the first week of June, is critical for us because our sponsors would not have the chalets filled if it wasn’t for that date. If we went one week later or sometime in the summer it wouldn’t work for us. We tried that Labor Day weekend (2007, 2008) and we saw what happened. Our sponsors couldn’t get the chalets filled because people were up north, one last weekend before the kids are back in school.”

The Detroit Grand Prix’s contract with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to stage the race on Belle Isle expired with this year’s race.

Denker told The Detroit News earlier this month that the race will continue on Belle Isle or not at all in Detroit. "There's no Plan B," Denker said then. "If we don't have it on Belle Isle then we won't be here in Detroit."

Gossage admitted that his renewed campaign to capture the post-Indy date was fueled by the Belle Isle-DNR contract situation.

“I think the fact our contract was up now with the DNR, I’m it added to a little more credence to his comments about why he wants it there,” said Denker.

Scott Dixon won the DXC Technology 600 on Texas’ 1.5-mile oval on June 9. Texas Motor Speedway’s contract with IndyCar also expired with this year’s race.

Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay won races on Belle Isle June 1-2 on the 13-turn, 2.3-mile temporary street course. More than 105,000 fans were in attendance during the three-day weekend, including 48,000 for Race No. 1 on Saturday.

Denker said he is in the final stages of competing a contract proposal, which he will submit to the DNR.

“It’s always a negotiation. It’s always a compromise situation,” Denker said. “We’ve listened to people that don’t want our event there and we made a lot of compromises this year, less time on the island, and we’ll continue to evaluate that so once we submit our proposal to the DNR we’ll see where that goes. My intention is that we’ll continue on, but I can’t tell you that’s going to happen 100 percent yet because we haven’t got the deal done.”