Could a grand prix take another lap around Denver? There are murmurings.

Denver held seven grand prix events in the 1990s and 2000s. One man is trying to bring it back.
4 min. read
Mario Dominguez races around Turn 1 during Champ Car Qualifying in 2004 at the CENTRIX Financial Grand Prix of Denver. (Marc Piscotty/Rocky Mountain News/Denver Public Library Western History Collection/RMN-021-0672)

Decked out in cherry red Ferrari hats and race jackets on a Sunday morning at Will Call in River North, Daniel Schrader and Mark Stephens sipped a bloody Mary and a coffee, respectively, and stared intently at the TV blaring a Formula 1 grand prix in Bahrain.

"Ma boy!" Stephens yelled as his favorite driver passed another on a turn. Stephens, president of the Ferrari Club of Denver, and Schrader, who runs the Denver Formula 1 Club, were joined by about 100 others united by their love of the international race league.

The enthusiasts had to gather at a bar to watch this grand prix, but it wasn't always that way. In the early 1990s and 2000s, Denver held seven grand prix events, spectacles that lured passionate fans to what Stephens calls "Woodstock with cars."

And it could happen here again.

There's no indication that Formula 1 will be the league to hold a race in Denver -- IndyCar, IMSA and Pirelli World Challenge are other options -- but one man is poking around to see if some type of grand prix is feasible.

From left, Grant King, Mark Stephens, Daniel Schrader and ErikBilisoly watch a race at Will Call in River North, March 31, 2019. (David Sachs/Denverite)

Kyle Chism, who says he's involved in motorsports, would like to see a race through city streets. He is serious enough to have spoken with the Denver Office of Special Events to see what it would take. Nothing is official -- no application has been submitted, for example -- but there is some buzz.

"I don't know how real it is," Chism said. "There is no event or anything like that. I've been involved in motorsports for a couple of years and I would love to have an event in Denver."

Katy Strascina, executive director of the city's special events office, said her role right now is "just listening."

"They're talking about an interest of coming back in the next few years," she said.

In 1991 and 1992, a Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) Grand Prix took over the heart of Denver -- but it also left behind a mess.

Civic Center Park was "trashed," according to an old Denver Post article, and taxpayers were left paying $500,000 in subsidies after the race lost $8 million and shut down.

Samuel Juares bolts down cable for the 24,000 feet of debris fencing on the 1.65-mile street track for the Grand Prix of Denver on Tuesday morning, July 18, 2006, at the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver. (Ken Papaleo/Rocky Mountain News/Denver Public Library Western History Collection/RMN-029-7041)

A yearly Champ Car race between 2002 and 2006 was more successful. The track surrounded the Pepsi Center, and Mayor Wellington Webb refused to subsidize the race.

Schrader was there.

"Going to a race, the atmosphere at a race is just unreal," he said. "The people, the noise, the smells, the action."

Schrader and Stephens speak fluently about the sports side of racing, as well as the business side. They could see a grand prix returning to Denver, but said a Formula 1 race is unlikely because of the price tag that comes with it. Austin hosts a Formula 1 race that cost taxpayers $250 million over 10 years, according to the Texas Tribune. Boosters say the race brings hundreds of millions of dollars in return, though.

The owner of Formula 1 lives here.

Yep. Liberty Media owns the circuit. And billionaire John Malone, who controls Liberty Media and Liberty Global, lives in Colorado.

Denverite asked Liberty for an interview with Malone or Formula 1's CEO Chase Carey about the possibility of a race coming to Denver. "We have no comment," spokesperson Courtnee Chun said in an email.

Formula 1 is looking to expand in the American market, Carey told ESPN in 2017, but he threw out names like Miami and Las Vegas, not Denver.

"It's unlikely," Stephens said. His eyes got big. "But it would be huge."

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