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Detroit Grand Prix returns with Indy Car racing, learning opportunities for Detroit students

After a four-year absence, the Detroit Grand Prix returns to Belle Isle this weekend.

The event officially kicked off Friday—despite steady rainfall--with a “free day” open to the public. It featured practice laps, some qualifying races, and other events away from the racetrack.

Races continue over the weekend, culminating with the Chevrolet Indy Grand Prix race on Sunday.

Grand Prix Chairman Bud Denker says he had “goosebumps” when he threw the green flag to kick off racing Friday morning.

“It’s just great to hear the roar, the sounds, the sights of having it back here,” Denker said. “It’s so important. We are the Motor City, and it makes so much sense to have racing back here.

It’s been four long years…[but] we’re back. And we’re back for many more years to come.”

The race had been on hiatus because many corporate sponsors withdrew their backing during the recession.

The Grand Prix’s return was spearheaded by Detroit-based auto dealership and racing magnate Roger Penske. Organizers say the event will draw thousands of racing fans and upwards of $50 million to the city.

The Grand Prix is also the endpoint of a special science and math curriculum for some Detroit fifth-graders.

They’ve been learning about racing-related concepts such as energy, friction, and geometry—and will get a chance to apply them on the racetrack.

The program has several outside sponsors, including PNC bank.

Rick Devore, PNC’s Regional President in southeast Michigan, says the program is a fun way to get kids interested in engineering concepts and careers.

“The Governor’s been talking about trying to get more of our children ready for the jobs that are available. And if we can find one or two kids that become drivers that’s great, but more important, if we can get more engineers in this city, that’s really what this is all about.”]

Devore and others say they hope the program can continue and expand in future years.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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