As Detroit Grand Prix nears, students learn about careers in motorsports

David Goricki
The Detroit News
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Detroit — The Detroit Chevrolet Grand Prix IndyCar doubleheader weekend is just six weeks away, and more than 90 students from Metro Detroit took part in a Zoom call Thursday with multiple personalities who will be participating in various series.

The IndyCar doubleheader didn’t take place a year ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Detroit Grand Prix returns to Belle Isle on June 11-13.

Not only will the IndyCar series hold its doubleheader this season, it will be joined by the Indy Lights series for the first time since 2012, along with the IMSA sports car series. The doubleheader weekend is June 11-13.

The IMSA sports car series showcases the Corvette C8.R, which made its debut in the series last season, winning the 2020 WeatherTech Championship GT Le Mans title.

Michael Montri, Detroit Chevrolet Grand Prix IndyCar president, is busy working on attendance possibilities with the pandemic still in the mix, hoping he will have a concrete answer in the next couple of weeks on how many fans will be allowed to view the action.

Laura Klauser, Sports Car Racing Program manager for Corvette Racing located in New Hudson in Oakland County, was a part of the Zoom call, giving students tips on possible jobs in the field.

Klauser said there are multiple jobs available in the industry in addition to drivers. Jobs also can be had as engineers and mechanics, as well as on the marketing staff for sponsorship opportunities.

“You definitely want people that are open to filling in whatever need is there at the moment,” Klauser said. “We have many different roles on the team and each of them cover different things. There’s a great example in (Belgium this weekend) where one of our engineers will be doing tire changes because one of our mechanics couldn’t join us during the race.

“There’s always a need to be able to be flexible, so being able to adapt as needed and to be excited to learn all different things and how you can play a part are huge. We also look for people that are motivated and they have the passion and are driven. You need to be engaged, because there’s long days, long hours and sometimes things go great and sometimes it doesn’t, so you have to have that passion to carry you through, and the good news is that everyone around you has that passion, so together we carry ourselves through all that.”

One of them who has that passion is 18-year-old Gage Williams, a mechanic and fueler for the Corvette C8.R team based out of New Hudson.

“I just graduated out of high school last year; the opportunity came up to work here and I jumped on it and was able to excel in the program quite drastically since I started,” Williams said. “Any advice I’d give to students looking to get into the trades or whatever, I’d just say to follow your passion and do what you love doing.”

More: Racing 101: IndyCar sponsors Belle Isle classroom for Detroit youth

One of the students on the call said she planned on studying nursing and wondered if that could land her in motorsports.

Felipe Nasr, a former Formula One driver, said he was involved in a crash during practice for his first IMSA race on Belle Isle in 2018, was checked out at the medical center and returned to win the race the next day, saying there are medical jobs in motorsports with the opportunity to travel with the series and see the world.

Nasr will be competing on Belle Isle in June with the Action Express Racing Cadillac team.

There also will be a new program introduced to the IndyCar doubleheader event with the NXG Youth Motorsports, based out of Indianapolis, bringing its program to Belle Isle on June 5-6, one week before the doubleheader.

“We’re very excited to have the opportunity to bring NXG Youth Motorsports and introduce youth, 11 to 15 (years old) to motorsports through go-karting," Michael Smith, community engagement director for NXG Youth Motorsports, said. "We’ve discovered that we’re just not introducing you to the motorsports industry, but also to the use of life skills and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics)-based learning opportunities that will grow you in your curriculum work in schools."

For more information, go to NXGYouth.org to find an application for the program.

Merrill Cain, public relations director for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Public, also noted the return of Comerica Bank Free Prix Day on June 11, with more information to come when information on attendance is solidified.

david.goricki@detroitnews.com

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