For months rumors have been swirling about a NASCAR street course race in Chicago. It looks like those rumors have come to fruition. According to Jordan Bianchi of the Athletic, the city of Chicago has endorsed a NASCAR raco e on a temporary street course for a three-year deal beginning next season.
“This would be a historic partnership for NASCAR and the city of Chicago, and our department is committed to collaborating and supporting NASCAR to execute the events in a safe and secure manner,” read a letter to NASCAR from Erin Harkey, Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events commissioner.
No contract has been officially signed. However, NASCAR and city officials have an announcement tentatively scheduled for July 19th. This race would be the first of it’s kind. But, pulling off a Chicago street course would be a massive undertaking.
Most stock car races have been held on permanent road courses such as Circut of the Americas, Sonoma, or Watkins Glen. Temporary street courses have been mainly reserved for V8 sports cars or open-wheel racing like Formula 1. Miami hosted a Formula 1 race and had an abundance of financial success. Tickets went for an average of $575 a piece, and they had no problem filling the stands.
It should be noted that NASCAR isn’t nearly as popular as F1, but the first NASCAR street race in one of the most scenic cities in America is more than enough to garner some attention.
A concept of a Chicago street course was run in iRacing in 2021. The track ran through Michigan Avenue, Lake Shore Drive, and passed Grant Park and Buckingham Fountain. Aesthetically it was a fantastic track. Logistically it could be a nightmare closing down all those streets for a weekend.
President of NASCAR, Ben Kennedy, has been experimenting with exciting new races with more of a big event feel in an attempt to grow NASCAR’s popularity. A Chicago street race would undoubtedly fit the bill.
In February, NASCAR debuted its Clash at the Coliseum, a short track race inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. It was a massive gamble.Not only did they have to build a track inside a football stadium, but they also had to compete for attention with the Superbowl that was being held the following week.
But 55,000, many of whom had never seen a NASCAR race before, packed in to witness the race. The event featured pre-race concerts by Pitbull and a mid-race concert by Ice Cube. The race received rave reviews across the board.
The Clash at the Coliseum is precisely what NASCAR is going for with the Chicago street race. NASCAR is looking to reenter the market after Chicagoland Speedway was dropped from the schedule.
The new Chicago street race could be in town in 2023, 2024, and 2025. Road Corse racing has dropped in popularity amongst fans. The fear is that the unconventional racing style on a street course will make passing difficult and the entertainment value low. The novelty may wear off in years two and three if the racing is not good.
One road course race will need to be dropped from the NASCAR schedule next year. Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin seems to be the odd one out. NASCAR has raced at Road America the previous two season’s on the Fourth of July weekend. The races have been subpar at best. Tyler Reddick earned his first career Cup victory on July 3rd in what was otherwise a forgettable race at Road America this year.
Still, Road America has brought in 90 thousand plus fans in each of the past two years, which makes swapping it for a street race a considerable gamble. NASCAR seems to be willing to take that risk.