Gear Up for the 2013 Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix

The Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix returns to the Motor City May 31-June 2, 2013 with three days of world-class auto racing, live music, interactive games and displays all on beautiful Belle Isle Park. Robert Stone, a public relations intern with the race, has gotten a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into the making of the Grand Prix. Today, he shares his experience with us.

Read from him below and learn more about the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix on michigan.org.

When I was growing up, sports were a huge part of my childhood – both playing them and getting to watch them.  The love continued through college and my plan was always to somehow work in sports.  Well, I’m getting my first chance this spring as the public relations intern with the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. I love that the job has given me the opportunity to be part of a very positive event in Detroit and the State of Michigan.  With the race coming up May 31 – June 2 on Belle Isle, we’ve been doing a lot of media tours with race car drivers to promote the race and I’ve really had a chance to experience some cool things and kind of see Detroit and Michigan through the eyes of some world-class athletes.

I didn’t know a lot about cars and racing when I joined the Grand Prix team, but luckily having prior motorsports knowledge was not a requirement for this position.  With a little research I was able to become slightly more knowledgeable than I was before coming on board.  As the drivers started to come to Detroit to help us promote the race, I was initially more excited about the chance to visit our local radio and TV stations to see how everything worked.  But the ability to sit and spend time with some of these amazing drivers was an unreal experience as they shared their thoughts on all sorts of topics. 

Christian Fittipaldi was one of the first drivers to come to Detroit this year to help us promote the event.  He is a former CART and NASCAR driver who now drives for the Action Express Racing team in the GRAND-AM Rolex Series, and his uncle is racing legend Emerson Fittipaldi.  The Fittipaldi last name was familiar to me, but I was still learning about the GRAND-AM series and the high-tech sports cars they drive.  As the day went on we started talking racing and Christian mentioned that he could close his eyes and basically drive the Belle Isle track in his mind, even more than 10 years after he last did it in person, and that was incredible to me.  Every time I try and close my eyes to picture a drive the thoughts go so slowly, but he was able to drive the course at race speed in his mind.  Just being able to spend time with a guy who has been in some of the biggest races in the world and share his thoughts on what it was like was incredible.

The next week we had the pleasure of welcoming IndyCar fan-favorite James Hinchcliffe to town.  The “Mayor of Hinchtown,” as he likes to call himself, replaced Danica Patrick in the GoDaddy.com Chevrolet IndyCar for Andretti Autosport. Hinchcliffe didn’t have the best experience at Belle Isle last year as he was the driver claimed by the track before they stopped the race to fix the surface.  To show that he didn’t have any hard feelings towards the event and to help showcase all of the work that has been done on Belle Isle to make it a premiere race course, Hinchcliffe spent the morning moving tires in a forklift to help us prepare for the event.  It was a great way to demonstrate how he had moved on from the incident and that the Grand Prix is ready to host an incredible race weekend in just a few weeks.  Getting to spend the day with “Hinch” proved that his fun loving, joking nature isn’t an act or for show but it’s the type of guy he is.  It was also cool to watch him on TV win on the streets of Brazil just a few days after leaving Detroit.

JR Hildebrand, who drives the National Guard Chevy IndyCar for Panther Racing, came to town the next week and he threw out the first pitch at a Detroit Tigers game, which allowed the staff access to the field as well. I’ve been to a Tigers game early before to watch batting practice, but being able to stand on the field and watch these guys hitting the ball was an unbelievable experience.  Then getting to jump with JR from the radio broadcast booth to an interview with Fox Sports Detroit gave me the chance to experience the behind-the-scenes areas of Comerica Park that very few people have seen.  The next day we went to the GM Heritage Center, which is packed with classic cars showing the lineage of the GM brand from the 1920s to today.  As I said, I am not really a car guy, but it was hard not to be in awe at the Heritage Center with so many amazing vehicles.  It had all of the history of the GM brand in one room, from a replica of one of the first racecars to GM’s first electric car and an SUV that could drive itself.  One of the cars had less than 50 miles on it, which is amazing because I drive farther than that to get to work every day!  I could have spent hours in that place just trying to soak up everything that the Heritage Center had to offer.

Being able to be a part of these once-in-a-lifetime experiences was way more than I ever thought I’d experience working in my position.  Just the opportunity to be around these drivers and watch them do normal things like talk to people on Twitter or relate to current events and issues made me realize that they are just normal, good guys.  Guys that happen to drive really fast for a living with a lot of guts and a lot of skill.  Working for the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix has been an unbelievable experience so far, and it is just getting revved up.

There is going to be so much going on race weekend at Belle Isle, it is going to be an incredible experience for fans and I’m just really excited that I will get to be a part of bringing this great event to life. If you want to learn more about the Grand Prix please check out www.DetroitGP.com and follow us on Twitter @DetroitGP.

Robert Stone is the public relations intern with the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix.  He is currently working towards his Master’s Degree in Sports Administration at Central Michigan University.  In his spare time he likes to spend time with his girlfriend Jenn, dog Jake and cats Cleo, Oreo and Professor Fuzzy Boots.

Five Ways to Enjoy a Tigers’ Game

Baseball season is back! For those who can’t make it to Comerica Park in Detroit, Jake Cagle of The Awesome Mitten has rounded up a list of places to enjoy a Tigers game in other parts of the state.

It’s April, and Opening Day is upon us. Around the country, ballparks are coming alive with the sounds of summer.  Here in Michigan, we welcome back the chance to see our Detroit Tigers try and repeat as American League Champions, with the hopes that maybe they can take home the World Series trophy this year. 

The Major League Baseball season consists of 162 games played in around 180 days.  Of these games, half are played on a team’s home field.  For Tigers fans, this means there are 81 chances to spend a summer afternoon or evening at Comerica Park in downtown Detroit.  For all but the most hardcore of fans, there are just too many games to see all of them in person.  Most people don’t have the money or time.  Many don’t live close enough to make the nearly everyday trip down to the ballpark.  So what’s a loyal Tigers lover to do? 

Luckily, every game is scheduled to be broadcast on TV this season.  That means you can catch Verlander, Cabrera, Fielder, and the rest of the crew in full high definition, complete with the always entertaining commentary by Mario Impemba and Rod “I See You” Allen, anywhere there’s a cable box.  So we asked some of our writers at The Awesome Mitten, if you can’t make it to Comerica Park, where are you going to catch a Tigers’ game?

Here’s my answer…
Since I moved in to my cable-less apartment two years ago, watching a Tigers’ game usually means walking the mile into Grand Rapids’ Eastown neighborhood to go to Mulligan’s Pub.  Whenever someone tags along, the first thing they notice is that Mulligan’s is not a sports bar.  It’s dark, rough around the edges, and every square inch of the place isn’t covered in TVs.  That’s okay with me; if I wanted a sports bar—and the subsequent feeling that I suffer from ADHD—I would go to a chain restaurant.  Instead, I go to Mulligan’s because it’s a neighborhood bar with cheap beer and no B.S.  If I’m going to have to sit and listen to someone babble about how “Ramon Santiago should be an everyday player,” it better be from someone who has seen nearly every game this season.  I can tolerate nonsense from a regular much easier than from some guy who has only seen three games this season and “just came here for the hot wings.”  So come this summer, where will you find me most evenings?  I’ll be down at Mulligan’s, drinking a beer, watching the Tigers, and listening to some guy tell me “We paid too much for Fielder!” with a smile on my face. 

Nick Nerbonne (@nicknerbonne) says…
Beer and baseball go hand-in-hand, so when I get together with friends to watch the Tigers in Traverse City, my go-to spot is 7 Monks Taproom. The folks at 7 Monks are big supporters of Michigan sports teams, so the Tigers are always on at least one of the flat screen TVs above the bar, or others near the booths and tables if you have a bigger group.

But make no mistake, 7 Monks is all about the beer. The ever-changing lineup of craft brews on 7 Monks’ 45+ taps (and plenty more in bottles) offers selections from throughout Michigan and beyond, keeping even the most diehard craft beer enthusiast happy. The atmosphere is low-key and friendly, and the conversation often centers around the latest release from Bell’s, Short’s, or Founders as much as it does Justin Verlander’s latest outing. If you enjoy a good beer while watching a ballgame, this downtown TC favorite is a home run.

John Kalmar (@johnkalmar) says…
I like to think of myself as an old soul. I enjoy sporting cardigans, yelling at the neighbor kids to get off my lawn and listening to baseball on the radio (only two of those are true). So when it comes to the question of “Where’s your favorite place to watch a Tigers game?” I’m going to throw a curveball here (topical, am I right?) and say my backyard with a trusty transistor radio by my side. 

My preference of radio over TV for most Tigers games really took place last summer while I was working nights at newspaper. I could easily pull up the radio stream of the games and listen to it in the background while I worked my nights away as a newsie. It became such a daily routine for me to listen them and shut off the outside world at night that I began to refer to Tigers’ radio broadcasters Dan Dickerson and Jim Price as my only friends that summer (I’m half joking). There truly is something romantic and timeless about listening to a ballgame on the radio. No high definition images, slow-mo replays or flashy graphics (I really am making myself look like an old curmudgeon): it’s just you and the broadcaster. So this summer, you can find me in my lawn chair with a bottle of Oberon, listening to Jim Price discuss the art of pitching and hearing Dan Dickerson instruct me to “watch it fly” after each Tigers homerun.  

Kristin Coppens (@kristinmcoppens) says…

Mitten Brewing Co. (Photo courtesy of Bryan Esler)

What better place to watch the Tigers games than at a brewery dedicated to the very team? In Grand Rapids, The Mitten Brewing Co. has hit a home run as it took the best aspects of a sports bar and turned it into a neighborhood craft brewery located on Grand Rapids’ West Side. With only a few TVs, the Mitten Brewing Co. is a nice alternative to a chain restaurant and sports bar.

My favorite part of The Mitten Brewing Co. is their ability to spin simplicity into ingenuity. Each classic craft beer style has been modified by the owners’ and brewers’ personal innovation—like the ’84 Double IPA and the Peanuts and Cracker Jack Porter. The brewery also serves homemade gourmet pizzas and breadsticks on their menu. A true example of ‘don’t mess with a good thing,’ The Mitten Brewing Co. revolves around pizza, craft beer, baseball, and a local, neighborhood feel. What more could you ask for?

Come join me to cheer on our Navy and Orange, grab a beer, and throw some peanuts on the floor at The Mitten Brewing Co. Go Tigers!

Kati Bethuy (@MrsKayTeeBee) says…
Every summer, I would try my hardest to get tickets for Tigers games. Sometimes, though, I just couldn’t afford it. So what’s the next best thing? Going over to Hockeytown and taking in the game from their roof. From up there you can see into Comerica Park and hear the bats crack with every hit. Listen to the roar of the crowd and get sucked into all the energy oozing out of the park all while enjoying an ice cold beer and some delicious food, much better and cheaper than the stuff served in the park. If you want to feel like you’re part of the game but you lack the tickets to get in, Hockeytown is where it’s at.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy a Tigers’ game? Share in the comments section below!

Jake Cagle (@jake_cagle) is a feature writer for The Awesome Mitten. Born in Adrian, Michigan, Jake currently resides in Grand Rapids. He graduated from Grand Valley State University. Jake’s work has also been featured on MittenBrew.com and Visit Detroit Blog.