NASCAR

NASCAR Hits The Road: Inside The New Chicago Street Race

August 22, 2023

There’s going to be a bit more breeze in the Windy City this weekend as NASCAR holds a Cup Series race in Chicago for the first time ever.

The Grant Park 220, named for the city park on the course route. It’s a 100-lap race, and the 2.2-mile course has 12 turns, seven of which are 90-degree angles.

It’s a return to the Second City region for the Cup Series, which for several years raced in Joliet, 45 minutes away, before ending that Illinois experiment after the 2019 season.

It’s an exciting change of pace to the usual oval courses that comprise virtually all Cup Series races — this should be a bit more like the twists and turns you find with Formula 1 races. Let’s take a look at some of the nuts and bolts as NASCAR roars into Chicago this weekend.

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When

The gates open at 9 a.m. local (Central) time on Saturday, and the agenda for the day includes practice, qualifying and then The Loop 121 – the Xfinity Series race – starting at 4 p.m.

On Sunday, the Grant Park 220 starts at 4:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m. ET), following a show by country star Miranda Lambert.

However, race times on Saturday and Sunday could be delayed by showers and thunderstorms, which are in the forecast.

Where

Downtown Chicago! Hundreds of workers have transformed several city blocks into a 2.2-mile race course, including 12 turns, seven of which are right angles. The start and finish line will be on Columbus Drive between Jackson and Balbo Drives, and the fastest stretch will be on DuSable Lake Shore Drive.

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Why

“The goal is to just introduce NASCAR to a new audience,” Chicago Street Race president Julie Giese told the Charlotte Observer. “Chicago is already a good market for us from a fan-base perspective. We obviously raced in Joliet for 20 years. And looking at fan engagement and interest, Chicago’s in our Top 3 markets.”

NASCAR is hoping to spark more interest in the Chicago metropolis than they had earlier, when they held 19 Cup races at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet from 2001-2019. Because of subpar attendance, NASCAR departed Joliet after the 2019 season.

Who

Martin Truex Jr. has finished in the top five for four straight races and leads the standings — he’s 18 points ahead of William Byron and Ross Chastain, who are tied for second place. But Chase Elliott is the odds-on favorite because of his expertise on road courses. He has seven victories and has finished in the top five in 15 of 26 road courses over the past seven years.

Another big ‘who’ for NASCAR is who’s going to show up, and the circuit is predicting more than 50,000 fans will descend on downtown Chicago to check out the race and entertainment this weekend.

How

To pull off this event, NASCAR had to construct the course segment by segment to avoid long traffic closures. Columbus Drive has been transformed into Pit Row and the frontstretch, and pit road cameras are being mounted on light poles.

The city has also repaved bridge transitions to even out the surface, including Balbo Drive going over the railroad tracks and a pedestrian bridge on Lake Shore Drive.

The Chicago Fire Department will work with racing operations on pit medical and fire carts — among the many other aspects of holding a NASCAR Cup Series race in a major city.

Photo credits: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire; NASCAR

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Alex Valdes
Alex Valdes is Web Content Manager at Tipico North America. He has written, edited and performed user and site analysis at MoneyTalksNews, NBC Sports, MSN, Bing, MSNBC, as well as newspapers and magazines.
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