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  • Writer's pictureChris Green

Detroit Grand Prix

Photos by Chris Green, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.29

Detroit Grand Prix Detroit, MI 48243

Year Opened: 1982


Downtown in Motown

The Detroit Grand Prix has a long history in motorsports. Initially racing through downtown streets, it moved to the city’s Belle Isle for several decades. Finally, starting in 2023, it has returned to downtown Detroit, complete with a wild mix of difficult corners ripe for exciting racing. On top of the on-track product, one could argue this is one of the single most accessible street races from a fan perspective, with an overwhelming majority of the track viewing opportunities in non-ticketed areas.

Food & Beverage 4

There are several ways to approach the topic of food and beverages here. First, a look at the fan ticketed areas of the course shows a wide variety of foods. Food trucks and vendors line the area with everything from burgers and hot dogs to nachos, tacos, and salads. However, because the circuit is also located in the city streets, part of the track offers food options outside of the fan areas. A perfect example of this is the GM Renaissance Center – located right in the middle of the circuit but still outside of the ticketed area for fans, anyone can walk in here and grab a bite from Panera Bread or the other dining options here, and still catch the on-track action.

Atmosphere 5

There is something about the sound of roaring engines echoing through the canyon of city high-rises. Fans can expect the usual action on track, with IndyCar as the headliner and Trans-Am, Indy NXT, and IMSA playing support at the event. The fans cheer and roar with every daring pass and exciting finish, and with the track so close to the grandstands, you can’t help but feel the energy in the air. The track layout also winds through city streets that showcase stunning city backdrops, with Detroit’s historic buildings and architecture on full display.

Neighborhood 4

The city of Detroit has seen its share of hard times in recent years. That said, the track does avoid the rougher areas of the city, and winds through downtown’s more renovated areas. Hart Plaza and Spirit of Detroit Plaza both serve as fan areas to gather and watch from down near the tight hairpin corner downtown. GM’s headquarters is also located in the middle of the circuit itself, as the track races past the Detroit Riverwalk on Atwater Street. Trees line the streets on Jefferson Avenue where the long backstretch is located, providing shade for fans during the warm summer days. Even the famous Joe Louis “Fist” statue is located in the middle of the circuit. As far as Detroit goes, the track layout showcases the best of the city as it continues to claw its way back to prominence.

Fans 4

The fans here pack the track as they have in years past. The grandstands near the finish line and the hairpin were full for nearly every on track session, as were the suite boxes along the track’s unique double-sided pit road. It’s hard to argue against the passion of the fans in Detroit for motorsports, given the city’s unique history in the car industry, and it was on full display here at the Grand Prix.

Access 5

Access is where the event gets massive points – the layout of this year’s Detroit Grand Prix takes it past some unique locations in Detroit proper. First, you have the fact that only the paddock, finish line area, and the hairpin are technically ticketed fan areas; these zones feature grandstand seating and fan concessions for the event. Spirit Plaza is where driver intros take place, while Hart Plaza features several concerts throughout the event. On top of that, the Center Garage adjacent to turns 5, 6, and 7 features a rooftop fan zone for ticket-holding fans. Here, food stands and a DJ booth feature prominently, while giving you an elevated look at the track action down below. However, the shining stars for fan access are the non-ticketed areas.

The Detroit Grand Prix’s unique location means many areas for viewing are located outside of ticketed zones. Victory lane is located along the Detroit Riverwalk – speaking of the riverwalk, the entire track that runs along Atwater Street is easily seen from there without needing a ticket. The GM Renaissance Center is also not a ticketed area, with the autograph sessions being held inside for all fans. Additionally, numerous free viewing platforms are located along Jefferson Avenue, offering free track viewing of the track itself.

But perhaps the best free view of the Detroit Grand Prix is from the numerous parking garages that are near the finish line complex. The Port Atwater Garage, Beaubien Garage, Franklin Garage, and River East Garage all offer multiple floors of elevated viewing. These garages are not ticketed for fans, meaning anyone can walk inside without a ticket, although you will need a parking pass should you wish to park inside any of them. On race day, many fans are seen tailgating from their cars parked in the garages overlooking the track, offering stunning trackside views of pit lane, the finish line, and the last few corners on the track.

Finally, while the majority of the paddock area is inside the ticketed zone by the finish line and pit road, the Trans-Am series paddock is outside of that, allowing all fans with or without a ticket to get up close to the cars and drivers as the teams work on the cars for the event.

Return on Investment 5

Ticket prices to the Detroit Grand Prix start at $50 for grandstand access in the ticketed areas, and rise to just over $100 for some seats. However, with the majority of the track visible from non-ticketed zones, as well as the numerous free viewing platforms along the backstretch, you can easily watch the Detroit Grand Prix from multiple areas around the track without needing a ticket for access.

Extras 3

Throughout the weekend there are several free autograph sessions for IndyCar, IMSA, and Trans-Am drivers in the GM Renaissance Center. This gives you a chance to meet the stars of the respective series without having to pay extra. Also, as stated above, victory lane is located in a free area, giving everyone a chance to get up close to the post-race celebrations.

Finally, Detroit Grand Prix fans can look forward to Free Friday – this allows all fans free access to the track’s ticketed areas, including the paddock and fan zones, without needing to pay for a ticket.

Final Thoughts

While the loss of Belle Isle’s park-like location was lamented by some, the gain of a unique layout that features unparalleled access for fans perhaps has been the best outcome for the Detroit Grand Prix. Unique in setting and layout, this track offers everything that is great about street racing for race fans. Add to that the usually great summer weather the mid-west is famous for, and you have a great recipe for a wonderfully enjoyable race weekend in Motown.

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