NASCAR in Chicago? Not so fast – unless the city sees a pay day from it

The idea of ​​NASCAR drivers cruising the streets of Chicago is an interesting one, and we don’t blame Mayor Lori Lightfoot for considering the possibility.

It’s the daring kind of thing you should consider at least a big city, especially one that’s battling a global reputation for crime and violence.

But as the mayor’s office heads toward signing a contract with the racing agency, we’re waving a warning flag.

Given Chicago’s precarious financial condition, the city should make some money from this deal, either in direct payments from NASCAR — a multi-million dollar organization — or its sponsors.

And if the city argues that the races will generate tourist income, taxpayers deserve to know how much to expect — and where that money will go — before signing any deal with the racing agency.

The city seeks a ‘historic partnership’

Under the proposal, the NASCAR Street Course will take place in Chicago for three years as part of the NASCAR Cup Series beginning in 2023.

The path is not confirmed, but the file article on sports He said last week that the race could take place on downtown streets, although the story did not specify which streets could be used.

The sports news outlet discovered the race’s plans in response to a Freedom of Information Act request it submitted to the city.

The city’s letter to NASCAR said, “Chicago is incredibly excited about the opportunity to serve as a host for NASCAR Chicago Street Games in 2023, 2024 and 2025, and we stand ready to welcome NASCAR fans to our world-class city.”

“This will be a historic partnership for NASCAR and the City of Chicago, and our department is committed to collaborating and supporting NASCAR to carry out events in a safe and secure manner.”

If the races are approved, NASCAR racing will return to the Chicago area for the first time in four years. The NASCAR Cup Series was held at the now-closed Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet from 2001 to 2019.

But those races were held on a closed oval track. What about the streets of downtown Chicago, for example?

“If I can do things to help NASCAR in the track deck, some SAFER hurdles [an engineered foam track wall that absorbs impact] And runoff areas, I’ll be raising my hand a lot with the Drivers Council to try and help,” NASCAR racing star Kurt Bosch, who drives a Toyota sponsored by great Bulls Michael Jordan, told The Athletic.

“The excitement, the different value, the different feel. Bosch said.

The race will likely run in a mile-and-a-half loop. Los Angeles hosted a similar NASCAR event from 1998 to 2001 in and around the LA Coliseum.

In the oval race, stock cars can hit 200 mph, but in Los Angeles, racers were nowhere near their top speed scurrying through the streets. Race stats showed the average speed was around 47 mph—just two miles off the legal speed limit in parts of DuSable Lake Shore Drive.

The race is beautiful. Better city payday

Chicago was once the home of auto racing, with a few auto tracks located throughout the city, such as the 87th Street Speedway at 87th Street and Greenwood Avenue, which operated from 1948 to 1956.

Stock cars raced around an ash track inside Soldier Field in the 1930s. The stadium hosted the NASCAR Race – the predecessor to the current Cup Series – in July 1956.

So wanting to bring NASCAR here makes sense. All that nostalgia and desire to reconnect with the city’s racing past is great, but it doesn’t pay the bills.

The city should get a share of NASCAR racing that is healthy enough to help provide relief for its budget problems.

At a minimum, this cut should be sufficient to fund transportation and infrastructure projects, such as designated bus lanes or protected bike lanes.

NASCAR has a lot to gain by owning the skyline of one of America’s greatest cities as the backdrop to its first races.

But Lightfoot management must make sure the city is left with something more than noise, sights and exhaust smoke.

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