Why a NASCAR street race in downtown Chicago makes sense
NASCAR and the City of Chicago have mutually approved a race on the streets of Windy City that could take place as early as 2023, if a letter obtained by Athleticism is to be believed. The letter – acquired through a public records request – is said to speak of an endorsement for an event that could take place in the heart of downtown for three consecutive years. Although a contract has not yet been signed, an official announcement is expected on July 19.
Imagine stock cars whizzing past skyscrapers and high-end stores lining iconic Michigan Avenue. The roar of V8 engines echoes through glass buildings as cars cross the Chicago River. It would be a sort of Monegasque atmosphere but with wider streets and bigger (as well as louder) racing cars. It’s the kind of event that would make headlines not just domestically, but perhaps even abroad as well.
“As Commissioner of the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), I am excited about the potential opportunity to host NASCAR Street Course events here in Chicago,” Erin Harkey told Ben Kennedy, senior vice president of NASCAR. development and racing strategy in the letter, according to Athleticism. “DCASE is dedicated to enriching Chicago’s artistic vitality and cultural vibrancy, and our strong partnership with the Chicago Sports Commission ensures that NASCAR fans will be treated to a diverse and unforgettable experience.”
If these plans come to fruition, it would mean a huge step forward in NASCAR’s efforts to enter new markets and appeal to a younger and more diverse audience. Yes, Chicagoland Speedway has been on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule for years, although it is absent from this year’s schedule. However, comparing Chicagoland to downtown Chicago is like comparing apples to oranges. The former is aimed at a more traditional stock-car racing audience, while the latter would open the doors to the series.
Additionally, Chicago is one of the US metropolitan areas with the largest Hispanic population behind Texas and California. That would play well with now-NASCAR race-winning Mexican driver Daniel Suarez of Trackhouse Racing, a team part-owned by music superstar Pitbull. These demographics have a big impact on race attendance and can even influence where races are held, as Red Bull F1 driver Sergio Perez recently told me in an interview.
The idea of bringing NASCAR to downtown Chicago isn’t even new. Some version of street racing for F1, IndyCar and now NASCAR has long been rumored. But given what a massive logistical nightmare it would be to shut down the busiest parts of Windy City, nothing ever materialized. This, however, seems to have legitimate support from people who can make it happen.
A conceptual street course layout has already been living for about a year now on iRacing. The track, which you can see in the video above, crisscrosses Lake Shore Drive, Grant Park, Michigan Ave. and other Chicago landmarks. It would be great to see exactly that in the real world.
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