Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Chicago authorizes NASCAR street course race beginning in 2023, per report

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The city of Chicago has endorsed a NASCAR street course race to be held for a three-year stretch beginning in 2023, according to a letter obtained by The Athletic via a public records request. While no contract has officially been signed between NASCAR and the city, an announcement is tentatively scheduled for July 19.

In a letter addressed to NASCAR senior vice president of racing development and strategy Ben Kennedy, the city expressed its enthusiasm about serving as the host of NASCAR street course races in 2023, 2024, and 2025. The letter was signed by Erin Harkey, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events.

“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 the letter.

The idea of a street course race in Chicago has been openly discussed for some time as NASCAR has looked to re-enter the market after the Chicagoland Speedway in nearby Joliet, Ill. was dropped from the schedule and eventually ceased racing operations. In 2021, a conceptual Chicago street course was piloted in iRacing, which incorporated parts of Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive and picturesque settings like Grant Park and Buckingham Fountain.

An eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race held to show off the track was broadcast on FS1 and won by James Davison.

A street course race for the NASCAR Cup Series would be the first of its kind, as road races in stock car racing have traditionally taken place on permanent road courses as opposed to the temporary street courses more prevalent in open wheel racing as well as V8 Supercars in Australia.

Street course races for stock cars, though, aren’t as unheard of. Street courses are part of the schedule in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series in Canada, and the sport once held street course races in the United States via the old Winston West Series.

When and if the deal between NASCAR and Chicago becomes official, it is currently unclear how the current schedule would be adjusted to accommodate the addition of the race.

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