The NASCAR Cup Series will race against the backdrop of Lake Michigan and Grant Park next July 2 as part of a three-year deal with the city of Chicago.
It will be paired with an IMSA sports car race the day before, as well as music and entertainment options located along the 12-turn, 2.2-mile street course.
The course will include Lake Shore Drive, Michigan Avenue and South Columbus Drive, where the start/finish line and pit road will be located directly in front of Buckingham Fountain. It will pass through Grant Park and approach the northern edge of Soldier Field — site of the only other Cup Series race to take place in downtown Chicago, in 1956.
The Chicago announcement comes after NASCAR’s successful January exhibition race inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum that will return for a second running in 2023. Kennedy told The Associated Press he began working on both the Coliseum and Chicago street race in 2019.
It’s part of NASCAR’s sweeping changes to its oval-heavy schedule, first by adding both a dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway and additional road courses and now a completely new concept. It sounds as if it plans to keep going, too.
NASCAR last month confirmed the Coliseum would return next January, but the rest of the 2023 schedule has yet to be announced. The Chicago street course will replace the road course race at Road America on the Cup schedule.
By moving into downtown Chicago, NASCAR keeps a race in the Midwest region while returning to a coveted market. NASCAR ran 19 Cup races at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, a 45-mile drive from downtown.
NASCAR had tried to build interest in the market and even made Chicagoland the opening race of the playoffs in 2011. But the track was simply too far from downtown to attract a new audience and NASCAR pulled out after the 2019 season.
The decision to hold a race in downtown Chicago presents all sorts of logistical challenges for NASCAR, mostly centered around the safety of drivers and fans.