Sterling Heights — The 5th Annual Doug Guthrie Memorial Media Karting Challenge took place Tuesday night, kicking off the Detroit Grand Prix week.
Detroit Grand Prix Race Chairman Bud Denker and his staff have put the Karting Challenge in place to honor the memory of Guthrie, a longtime Detroit News reporter who was a big motor sports fan. He passed away in 2013.
Denker was on hand, and announced ticket sales are up 12 percent from a year ago, that 77 businesses are supporting the IndyCar doubleheader — 70-lap races run Saturday and Sunday — 25 chalets have been sold and a larger grandstand has been put in play down the backstretch with cars roaring past at 180 mph.
Denker said Mother Nature should be lending a hand with sunshine and temperatures in the mid-70s during the weekend.
Seven races will be held during race weekend, including the two IndyCar races, two Trans Am Series events, an IMSA race where three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves will compete in and the SPEED Stadium SUPER Trucks series event where trucks hit multiple ramps across the track at upward of 80 mph before bouncing down.
Professional and non-professional drivers Drivers gather for Doug Guthrie Memorial Media Karting Challenge at Kart2Kart. Robin Buckson / The Detroit News
Denker looked fresh and ready to go after spending the weekend in Indianapolis, enjoying the Indy 500 win of Team Penske driver Will Power, who took the checkered flag in his No. 12 Chevrolet.
Denker said Team Penske and Chevrolet will now ride into the Motor City with momentum.
“That was an amazing weekend for all of Team Penske, for Will and obviously Roger, (win) No. 17 for Roger,” Denker said. “Roger mentioned this stat on dinner Saturday night that we’ve been doing this (Indy 500) for 42 years, and every third year on average we’ve won the race.
“The fact that Chevy won at Indy and won at the (Indy) Grand Prix and now coming to Detroit is a big deal, big deal for them, big deal for us so great momentum. We were fast at Indy all month long the Chevys were fast. We did a lot of work over the off season to get our engines better.
“The cars are the same really, now the engines are the difference and of course the drivers. We’re really excited to see this new package on Belle Isle (13-turn, 2.3-mile street course). I’m not sure what it’s going to do yet, not until the first practice. I think it will have faster straightaway speed, obviously the turns will be slower because of less downforce so it puts it back in the driver’s hands, sliding around, slippery, it’s a concrete track for the most part so it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
This is the final year of the contract to have the event on Belle Isle, but Denker feels IndyCar racing will be in the future on the island, despite protests by some who are against the races being run on Belle Isle.
"Our intention is to stay, and these handful of dissenters don't bother me. I'm more worried about the 90,000 people that are coming over there to promote the event," Denker said. "It's unfortunate that the people that are always the negative get the loudest voice, but it doesn't deter us at all, we're moving ahead."
'The Bachelor' has arrived
One of the truck drivers was on hand in Arie Luyendyk Jr., who has added a few dozen more fans after being "The Bachelor" this past fall. He was at Kart2Kart for the fifth straight year, but this time with fiancé Lauren who, of course, was another star on the show.
“It’s always fun to come to Detroit, always have a lot of success here and I just came off a win in Perth, Australia, a couple of weeks ago. We have Lear back on the truck again this year, a hometown sponsor. Really, it almost feels like I’m coming home when I come back to Detroit because I have so much support here.”
And, of his new star power coming from "The Bachelor?"
“I’m still doing the same thing, which I think is important,” Luyendyk said. “My plan is to continue racing and selling real estate. Life is settling down a bit now that the show is done so it’s really fun. I’m with Lauren, and we live together now in Phoenix. We just bought a house. We close on it on Friday so we’ll be excited to get home after the Detroit Grand Prix and move in.”
Rookie to get first doubleheader taste
IndyCar rookie Jordan King will get his first taste of a weekend doubleheader on Belle Isle, and knows he will have to quickly get used to the bumpy street course with practice and qualifying on Friday.
King competes for Ed Carpenter Racing in the No. 20 Chevrolet that Carpenter won the pole in for the Indy 500 before finishing second in the race.
King, 24, has competed in all of the road course and street course events this season with a season's best finish of 14th at Alabama.
DETROIT GRAND PRIX
Where: Belle Isle
IndyCar: Dual IndyCar races on Saturday and Sunday, 3:30 p.m.; each day, 70 laps each
Saturday — TransAm Challenge Race, 8:45 a.m.; Super Truck Series Race 1, 10:05 a.m.; IMSA SportsCar Championship, 12:30 p.m.
Sunday — TransAm Dash Race, 11:45 a.m.; Super Truck Series Race 2, 2:05 p.m.