General Motors and Roger Penske Return IndyCar Racing to Detroit

Remember the great financial meltdown of 2008?

It was a stressful time all over the country, just ask the citizens of Detroit. Homes were being foreclosed, layoffs were occurring daily, and the days ahead were filled with fear and uncertainty.

Then the unthinkable happened.

General Motors, the iconic automotive giant, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June 2009. The century old automaker eliminated brands, cut loose dealers, closed assembly plants, and accepted $49.5 billion bailout from the federal government.

No one – not even GM – knew what the future would hold.

Four years later, GM has fought back and regained the number spot as the world’s largest automaker by selling nine million cars and truck worldwide.  While GM recently announced that it is cutting Super Bowl ads, the resurgence of the auto industry has made way for other avenues into the sports landscape –corporate sponsorships.

Only nine months ago it was announced that Chevrolet and Cadillac would sponsor the 2012 Detroit  Belle Isle Grand Prix. Chevrolet, concluded its record year (selling nearly 4.8 million vehicles), by signing a three-year deal to serve as the title sponsor. And Cadillac injected its athletic car lineage into the fold by sponsoring the V-Series Challenge presented by Metro Detroit Cadillac Dealers.

“For Cadillac, racing is all about performance and demonstrating the performance of our V’s and what we’re about as an automotive brand today,” said Don Butler, Vice President of Marketing for Cadillac. “Considering where we were just a few short years ago, I think it’s perfectly fitting that we’ve got racing back in Detroit here on Belle Isle.”

Detroit has a rich history of motor sports racing. From 1982-1988 Formula One racing competed in the streets of downtown Detroit. This was followed by Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) from 1989-1991. In 1992, the race was moved to Belle Isle Park, an island in the Detroit River, and used by CART until 2001. Major league racing took a brief hiatus and returned in 2007 and 2008 with the American Le Mans Series and IndyCar Series.

Finally, after four long years of constantly being reminded of the “tough economic times,” the roar of race cars has been restored in Detroit.

In addition to the commitment from GM, the return of racing is thanks in large part to billionaire IndyCar owner, Roger Penske, who has the reputation of turning whatever he touches into gold. Penske was a driving force behind the three-day event (June 1-3), and he received numerous accolades from the sponsors, drivers, and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.

“We are very fortunate to have our business community led by Roger [Penske] and the General Motors hierarchy, otherwise this would have never happened again,” said Bing. “Not only are we doing the Grand Prix this year, it is a multi-year agreement, I think it gives us an opportunity in the City of Detroit to let people know that good things are happening. Our business community has been unbelievably supportive and our volunteers have been doing an outstanding job.”

While Detroit still faces economic challenges, the return of motor sports racing signals a brighter future for Detroit. It’s estimated that the 2012 Grand Prix will exceed the $55 million mark earned in 2008, which doubles the revenues from the 2009 NCAA men’s basketball Final Four.

If there was one downside to the race weekend, it would be the potholes that surfaced and created a two-hour delay, reducing the race from 90 laps to 60.  However, based on comments from the IZOD IndyCar drivers, the issues with the track won’t deter them from coming back next year.

“It’s important for us to be in the Motor City. There are not many cities that you come to that have that passion to reinvent themselves, it is definitely here,” said Dario Franchitti, 2012 Indianapolis 500 winner. “It was a minor problem today and it was fixed very quickly. It will not happen again, I can guarantee that the guys running it are just too smart and too organized. We’ll come back next year and go after it again.”

Good Night Sports Fans, 

Alana 

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