Nascar, the US-based stock car racing series, will celebrate its 75th season with its first-ever street race through downtown Chicago next year, marking a major change to its once oval-focused schedule.
The new Cup Series race will be set against the backdrop of Lake Michigan and Grand Park on July 2, 2023, as part of a three-year deal between Nascar and the city of Chicago. It will be paired with an IMSA sports car race the day before, as well as music and entertainment along the 12-turn, 2.2-mile street course.
The race will be broadcast by US media giant NBCUniversal.
The project was spearheaded by Ben Kennedy, the great-grandson of Nascar founder Bill France and Nascar’s senior vice president of racing development and strategy. He also organized the recent exhibition race inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in January, which Nascar confirmed will return for a second running in January 2023.
The new street race comes as Nascar makes sweeping changes to its oval-focused schedule, adding both a dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway and other additional road courses.
Speaking to news outlet AP, Kenney said: “Historically, we’ve always been short tracks, intermediates, superspeedways, eventually started getting more road courses and then came up with the Coliseum concept.
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“But the street course is something we haven’t explored a whole lot before, and the ability for us to get a downtown setting like this and bring racing to our fans, a street course is a perfect opportunity for it.”
Nascar raced at Soldier Field in 1956, the only other time the series raced within the Chicago city limits.
Previously, the series’ only race in Illinois was at the 1.5-mile (2.4km) Chicagoland Speedway oval, a 45-mile (72km) drive from downtown Chicago. However, the series pulled out after the 2019 season after the track was deemed too far from downtown to attract a new audience.
At the race unveiling in Chicago, mayor Lori Lightfoot said: “I am thrilled to welcome our partner at Nascar to join Chicago for an event that will attract thousands of people to our city.
Chicago’s world-class entertainment and hospitality industries, coupled with our city’s history as a conduit for sports talent, make us the perfect hosts for this unique event.”
Besides confirming the Coliseum race will return next January, Nascar has not released the rest of its 2023 Cup schedule yet. However, Kenny said the new street course will replace the road course race at Road America in Wisconsin.
Road America in Wisconsin has staged the Cup Series for the past two seasons on the same weekend as the new Chicago race.
Addressing future changes to the Nascar schedule, Kenny added: “We want to continue to explore new markets. We’ve talked a lot about the Pacific Northwest. We’ve talked a lot about the Northeast area. That’s an important market for us. But even internationally as well.
“I don’t know that they’ll be a day, at least in the short-term, that we’ll go necessarily overseas. But there might be an opportunity for us sometime in the future to go north of the border up to Canada or go to Mexico.”
The 2022 Nascar Cup Series started on February 6 and will finish on November 6.