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.