Starting July 2023, there will be a street course race in the NASCAR Cup Series in downtown Chicago, the city officially announced on Tuesday. This race is for a three-year run in the Windy City and will be the first street race in NASCAR history.
The race will take place in a 2.2-mile street course with 12 turns around the heart of Chicago. In recent years, NASCAR has been trying a few different things to bring the sport to new audiences in new cities, with one of the most recent example being the Busch Clash at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Next year will be NASCAR’s 75th anniversary, and senior vice president Ben Kennedy said there was no better way to celebrate than by doing something that has never been done before in the history of the sport.
“Of all the changes, this is the boldest changes in our schedule,” Kennedy said. “We’ve said, and it’s been pretty synonymous when we announced the schedules, that we want to be bold and innovative when we think about new venues and new concepts. This is number one on the list for us right now. It’s certainly going to be the most anticipated event of our season.”
The first race will take place on the weekend of July 2, 2023. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the talks began about a year ago. On Tuesday’s event, she was given a blue helmet and with white stripes and red starts to represent the merging of racing and her city.
“This is a huge, huge sports town. I think that goes without saying,” Lightfoot said. “And the opportunity to bring something so unique as NASCAR to the city of Chicago, I think it’s going to be one of the most iconic race courses, maybe ever.”
Kennedy described the race as something that could be compared to the road courses NASCAR already has, but also that this takes it to a whole new level. As for drivers themselves, this will be an opportunity to embrace a new challenge while competing with an impressive view of downtown skyscrapers.
Bubba Wallace — the driver of the No. 23 Toyota Camry for 23XI Racing — talked about the importance of representation and how this event will reach new demographics. His team is owned by Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan, and Wallace said he was excited for the opportunity to carry the Jordan banner in the city. While he admits he has no idea what to expect in this new course, he is ready to make the most of it.
“The biggest thing I was always asked by my dad when we were racing was, ‘are you having fun?'” Wallace said. “This has fun written all over it, so we’ll make the most out of it.”
While it will be the first street course race in the Cup Series, NASCAR does have some history in the area. Chicagoland Speedway in nearby Joliet, Ill. hosted the Cup Series from 2001 to 2019 at its 1.5-mile tri-oval.