DETROIT (Reuters) - Helio Castroneves and Will Power gave Roger Penske a sweep of the Dual in Detroit IndyCar races at the weekend, giving Motor City pride a shot in the arm.
Penske, the billionaire auto dealer who has poured his heart, sweat and millions of dollars into bringing IndyCar racing back to Motown and rebuilding Detroit’s reputation as Motor City, was rewarded with a double victory on the Belle Isle race course he helped build.
Castroneves, a triple Indy 500 winner who claimed his first IndyCar victory in Detroit 14 years ago, collected career win number 29 in a dominating drive on Sunday to move into a tie with Rick Mears for 11th on the all-time list.
On Saturday it was Powers spraying the champagne, as a smiling Penske looked on and fans cheered “We love you Roger”.
“Knowing how important this is for Roger, for Chevy, we wanted to win the Indy 500 and Detroit,” said Castroneves, runner-up at the Indy 500. “We were close to the Indy 500 but we were able to deliver two wins here in Detroit.
“For me I already had a lot of friends here in Detroit, mutual friends from Roger. It’s just special.”
Run in the shadow of race sponsor Chevrolet’s world headquarters and just blocks from neighborhoods left abandoned and savaged by the auto industry meltdown, the weekend showcased the power and automotive know-how the Motor City once stood for as Penske and his Chevy powered cars made the winner’s circle.
“Fantastic, for Roger, Chevrolet, the whole team. I just think it was fantastic we were able to win here today,” said Power, who followed up his victory on Saturday with a second-place finish behind team mate Castroneves on Sunday.
“That was really satisfying, Roger was over the moon to finally win with Chevy here, at his home track in Chevy’s backyard. It’s a perfect day.”
While it was a Brazilian and an Australian driving Penske’s cars, it was a ‘Made in America’ weekend as thousands of motor racing fans flooded a sun-kissed Belle Isle for some high octane fun and flag-waving.
Penske’s dominance offered another hint that U.S. motorsport may be entering a renaissance coming on the heels of last Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 where Ryan Hunter-Reay became the first American in eight years to win at the Brickyard.
Penske has long been one of his beleaguered hometown’s biggest boosters.
It was in a large part due to Penske’s efforts that Detroit was awarded the 2006 Super Bowl, while bringing IndyCar racing back to Detroit has helped restore Belle Isle Park to its former-grandeur and this year had an estimated $50 million impact on the local economy.
Even the owners and drivers who go wheel-to-wheel against Penske every weekend had nothing but respect and praise for the silver-haired Penske.
“To be fair, I have never seen a promoter like Roger, to put so much effort and money to make a place better so that is a compliment,” said Brazilian Tony Kanaan, who drives for Penske’s great rival Chip Ganassi.
“I don’t think we have a promoter in this series that does what Roger does for Detroit, so we are actually really proud of him.”
Editing by Larry Fine