The good-natured barbs between Chrysler Corp. President Robert Lutz and ITT Automotive President Timothy Leuliette prior to the Detroit Grand Prix's Neon Challenge race were akin to something out of the World Wrestling Federation.
"I always enjoy taking Sunday drives with senior citizens," said Mr. Leuliette before qualifying for the celebrity race that featured Dana Corp. President Joseph Magliochetti and PPG Senior Vice President E. Kears Pollock, as well as representatives from Hollywood and the automotive press corps.
"Let's just say that as president of a company that provides millions of dollars in business for these suppliers, I expect to be extremely competitive in this race," replied Mr. Lutz. "And I think young Timmy should spend less time talking trash and more time learning how to drive a manual transmission."
During time trials, in which Mr. Lutz placed 12th on the starting grid and Mr. Leuliette 15th, the Chrysler COO said he told Francois Castaing that if he valued his engineering vice presidency he would figure out a way to sneak into the paddock at 4 a.m. and put a better chip in the computer of his #21 Neon racer. "Did you notice how all 23 cars came in on one transporter and his came in on a separate one," the ITT president laughed.
The time for talk ceased when the green flag waved over the rain-soaked Belle Isle track. Mr. Lutz maintained his 12th position for all 11 laps of the contest. Mr. Leuliette, in hot pursuit of PPG pace car drivers Margie Smith-Haas and Stacy Marchant, met the wall and retired after just eight laps.
"Unlike some of my colleagues, I decided to race," explained Mr. Leuliette following the race. "And I took a turn designed for about 55 mph at 65 mph." The laws of physics took over after that. No injuries.
Mr. Pollock finished all 11 laps in 17th position and Mr. Magliochetti managed 10 circuits before PPG pace car driver Desire Wilson (a Formula 1 and Indy car veteran) took the checkered flag.
In the Detroit Grand Prix's main event, Michael Andretti won his second consecutive race.