NASCAR will race through the streets of Windy City in 2023.
For the first time, the Nascar Cup races will be held in downtown Chicago on July 4 this weekend, with the Cup race on that Sunday, July 2. As part of the event, Nascar-owned IMSA will race the day before, on July 1.
Go to street racing Follows Nascar’s plans to be bold with the schedule Following the Busch Light Clash show inside the LA Coliseum that debuted this year, as well as adding dirt to the short Bristol Motor Speedway in 2021.
The race in Chicago will be the first-ever Street Track Cup for NASCAR. The agreement between NASCAR and the City of Chicago for at least three years, showing an investment by the City and NASCAR in the event.
As part of the race weekend, NASCAR will include music and entertainment options, making it a full-scale event. The entertainers are still in the works, though bookings are expected soon. While total race attendance for the weekend is still being determined based on hospitality and bleacher space, hope is close to the “Lollapalooza” range, which could be around 100,000. NASCAR officials have made it clear that they have a long-term investment in a Chicago street race, and that it won’t be. Disturbing any trees or other major landmarks, and that they will work after the event to restore the grounds to their previous state before returning next year.
While many of the race details will be worked out over the next year, in an exclusive interview with me for her ForbesBen Kennedy, NASCAR’s senior vice president of racing development and strategy, said the event has been in the works for about two and a half years. A dedicated NASCAR team of about 30 people is working in Chicago on the event, and that team is expected to grow significantly locally as the event approaches.
“There will certainly be a lot of costs and significant infrastructure work to be included on the front side,” Kennedy said. But we wanted to make this a bigger partnership than just a one-year deal. Having this runway for two or three years has been very important for us to show that this event is important and something we are serious about.”
“Chicago’s streets are as iconic as our skyline, and our reputation as a global sports city is unquestioned,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “I am delighted to welcome our NASCAR partners to Chicago for an event that attracts thousands of people to our city. Chicago’s world-class entertainment and hospitality industries, along with our city’s history as a conduit for sports talent, make us the perfect host for this unique event.”
“Welcoming another NASCAR event in Illinois just weeks after the inaugural Enjoy Illinois 300 Cup Series is a testament to the strength of our tourism industry from Chicago to Metro East,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Illinois, with its long tradition of innovation, is a fitting host to NASCAR’s first-ever street race, and we are thrilled to welcome this new series to America’s most iconic driving next summer.”
The 12-lap, 2.2-mile street track will run on iconic Lakeshore Drive, Michigan Avenue and South Columbus Drive as part of the design. The start/finish line and pit road will be located along South Columbus Drive directly in front of Buckingham Fountain. The course will also pass through Grant Park and come near Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears.
Nascar has done a lot of research on the layout because it’s exactly what iRacing uses for street tracks. A course planning survey was conducted in 2020 and used to coordinate games with simulators, allowing Nascar to obtain important information. Several NASCAR drivers then led the course in simulators. Feedback from Cup drivers, as well as iRacing drivers, provided feedback on the course. Test runs were performed both clockwise and counterclockwise. The design announced today is listed with the warning that it may change ahead of the race at the weekend. Kennedy mentioned that there will be a few runoff areas, just as you see with F1 and IndyCar, but the course will be “tight” in locations.
The race will be either rainy or bright, and the Nascar Asphalt team has already checked the circuit. At this point it was considered to be in good enough condition with intermittent cracks and pits needing to be addressed.
The key to making the race possible was to move the Cup Series to the NextGen (Gen-7), which has better ground clearance and according to the drivers worked well with the road courses.
Nascar owns IMSA and, according to Kennedy, it is unlikely that the best prototype classes will participate in the July 1 event and will instead see the GTD Pro and/or GTD classes.
Given that the Chicago Streets Track event will be part of the 2023 point schedule, there’s a casualty. While Kennedy said event organizers and races have been exceptional, the Road America event in Wisconsin will be canceled, though he said a return to the road track with a Cup Series is not out of the question in the future.
Back at the Chicago event, it follows a strategy that Nascar has focused on: bringing the races within the big markets. It started with Clash at the LA Coliseum and continued with a three-year contract for A city where the wind blows Street racing. As Clash serves as a pilot for other stadium racing events, Street Racing is a pilot for how street racing might work in other markets. The reason for street racing is not just about the possibility of racing; It’s about eye candy.
“The optics for a Chicago street race would be amazing,” Kennedy says. “I think it will be a great spectacle – it will be one of our biggest moments next year, and definitely one of the biggest sporting events in our country next year. So we are very excited about it. We know we have a lot of work ahead, but we have the right team and the right people around us. To be able to do that and make it something special.”
Tickets for the 2023 Race on Chicago Street will be available later this year.