DETROIT (AP) - Roger Penske is looking forward to showing the world what Detroit has to offer this weekend.
The famed motorsports owner has put his time, money and passion into making the Detroit Grand Prix a world-class event.
When auto racing’s return to the Motor City in 2012 after a four-year absence didn’t go well, Penske put together a plan to fix shoddy roads that shifted the spotlight off high-performance cars and stunning views of an area trying to reshape its image.
So far, so good.
“How many millions did you spend resurfacing this joint,” Dario Franchitti asked the event’s chairman, Bud Denker, on Friday after winning the pole.
Penske’s Michigan-based company and Chevrolet spent nearly $2 million on the track that has been reconfigured 2.36-mile street course.
“It’s bloody impressive, and there’s more improvements on the way,” Franchitti said. “We should be racing here. It’s the Motor City, isn’t it?”
The investments were needed _ desperately.
Scott Dixon won last year’s Detroit Grand Prix marred by pot holes and grooves that stopped the race for a little more than 2 hours and shortened the 90-lap race to 70.
The improvements will be put to a test because IndyCar has scheduled two, full-length races for the first time this weekend on Belle Isle.
“We’re very confident that we’ve done the right thing, but you never know,” Penske acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press. “This is a business that when you think you’ve done everything you can, then you find something you didn’t do.
“We spent money to make wider turns, we added to a straightaway another half-mile for more passing and did work in areas where we had trouble last year.”
Dixon led from start to finish in a lackluster race _ building a 10-second lead _ on a tight road course that had just nine lead changes combined in 2007 and 2008.
No one wants to watch a parade-type race after seeing Tony Kanaan win Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 following a record 68 lead changes.