Detroit -- It’s November in Detroit but racing enthusiasts are already warming up for Detroit Grand Prix IndyCars.
Reigning IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden was in town Tuesday to kick off ticket sales for the 2020 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear as the IndyCar circus roars back to Detroit May 29-31. The event will kick off a June full of big events, including the PGA Tour's Rocket Mortgage Classic, the Detroit Auto Show and Ford Fireworks.
The race weekend will boast a jam-packed schedule including the only doubleheader IndyCar race on the calendar, the IMSA Weathertech SportsCar race, Trans Am Series, and the inaugural Historic Trans Am Series race featuring legendary muscle cars of the 1960s and 1970s.
“It’s like Christmas here in Detroit when we start ticket sales,” said Newgarden.
The Penske driver is coming off his second title in three years.
“I never thought that would be something that would happen," he said. "For sure a highlight of last season was Detroit -- being able to win the first duel. We tried to follow it up on Sunday and win the second race but didn’t quite make it happen. So we have some room for improvement in 2020.”
Scott Dixon, one of Newgarden’s closest title rivals, won the second race last year.
In addition to kicking off Detroit’s summer calendar, the Detroit Grand Prix will be run for the first time under Penske Corporation’s IndyCar ownership. Penske purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (home of the Indy 500 a week before Belle Isle) and the NTT IndyCar Series in a stunning deal announced earlier this month. Penske has organized the Belle Isle races since their debut in 2007 – and the 2020 event will the ninth consecutive running of the Dual in Detroit.
Team Penske will enter three cars in the NTT IndyCar race.
Penske’s Acura SportsCar team will compete in the IMSA Weathertech race. And the Historic Trans Am race likely will be awash in classic Penske Camaros and Javelins as The Captain and crew dominated Trans Am racing in the 1960s-early 1970s. The series will recreate those days of thunder as period-perfect Chevy Camaros, GMC Javelins, Ford Mustangs, Plymouth Barracudas, Pontiac Firebirds, and Dodge Challengers will go wheel-to-wheel on Belle Isle’s street circuit.
“We know how passionate people are in Detroit about classic cars and Motor City muscle, and the Historic Trans Am Series features some of the coolest and most powerful cars in racing history,” said Bud Denker, Detroit Grand Prix chairman and Penske president.
Newgarden took a moment Tuesday to fire up the 5.0-liter V-8 of a 1969 Camaro that will compete at Belle Isle.
IndyCar and IMSA Weathertech have led a resurgence in open wheel and sports car racing in the U.S., even as NASCAR numbers have fallen. IndyCar viewers were up 9 percent this year via NBC TV and online broadcasts. Eyeballs for IMSA increased 35 percent this year.
About 95,000 spectators crossed the Belle Isle bridge in 2019, even as severe weather and lightning postponed Saturday activities.
Tickets for the 2020 Detroit Grand Prix can be purchased online at DetroitGP.com/Tickets, through the ticket hotline at 866-464-PRIX (7749) or at the Grand Prix box office in downtown’s GM Renaissance Center.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @HenryEPayne.