NASCAR waves green flag on 2023 Chicago street race

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CHICAGO — NASCAR will hold its first Cup street course race next year in Chicago, series and city officials announced Tuesday.

The Cup series will race Sunday, July 2, 2023. NBC will televise the event. IMSA will compete Saturday, July 1.

“This is a monumental day in the history of our sport at NASCAR,” said Ben Kennedy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing development and strategy.

Each series will race on a 12-turn, 2.2-mile circuit that goes around Grant Park and include Lake Shore Drive. The start/finish line and pit road will be located along South Columbus Drive, directly in front of Buckingham Fountain.

“This is our boldest change in the schedule,” Kennedy said. “We’ve said, and it’s been pretty synonymous when we announce the schedules, that we want to be bold and innovative and we think about new venues and new concepts that we’re going to. This is No. 1 on the list for us right now, and it’s certainly going to be the most anticipated event of our season and one of the biggest sport events in our country in 2023.

“We’re really excited about it, and as Mayor Lori Lightfoot had mentioned, when you think about Chicago, you think about the rich history of sports here, you think about the iconic skyline, you think about the iconic landmarks around the city, Navy Pier, Cloud Gate, a handful of them, to actually have our NASCAR Cup cars racing around the streets of Chicago is going to be something just incredible.”

The races will be surrounded by music and entertainment events.

“We need to make sure it’s a good event,” Chase Elliott said earlier this month. “The drivers might not like the track and it might not be ideal for us. But when you’re in the middle of the city and have the ability to draw that kind of a crowd out to your race, we better make sure it’s put on well. 

“Done at a very high level, people have a good spot to watch the race from, things to go do and make it an event. That’s what it needs to be. And I think as long as it’s that and it’s done well, it will be a success whether the drivers like the track or not.”

Said Ryan Blaney earlier this month about a possible street course race: “I think it’s great they’re wanting to do something different and go to a good market. Your circuit has got to be wide enough to make it work. It can’t be 15 or 20 feet wide. It’s got to be wide enough to where you can actually race.”

The race puts an event into the heart of the city, the country’s No. 3 TV market. NASCAR last raced in the area in 2019 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joilet, which is more than an hour drive from parts of the city. NASCAR held its first race in Chicago in 1956 at Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears NFL team.

 “I think it’s going to be one of the most iconic race courses maybe ever, and introduce a whole new fan base to what NASCAR is about in the city of Chicago, we couldn’t pass up that opportunity,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot.

“The fans of NASCAR, I don’t have to tell you, are broad and wide and deep, and the opportunity to really, I think, ignite our tourism with a new iconic event on the calendar was a no-miss opportunity.”

This computer-generated image from the iRacing Pro Invitational Series race on the Chicago circuit shows the cars making the turn at Turn 2 on the 2.2-mile course. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Said Bubba Wallace, who was at Tuesday’s announcement: “There’s a lot of unknowns (about the track), and if you’ve been following my journey for the last little bit, I’ve always said the unknowns is what excites me.

“I don’t know what to expect going into this deal. I know that these guys got a lot of work to do and the city does, too, to get it ready. It’s exciting. I think as Mayor Lightfoot said earlier, being in this city, bringing NASCAR to this demographic, we talk about how representation matters, and I think exposing this sport to this area, downtown, with so much to do around while the race is going on is super important.”

Tickets for the 2023 NASCAR Chicago Street Race Weekend will go on-sale later this year at NASCARChicago.com. 

The 2023 NASCAR schedules will be released at a later date. Cup dates announced for next year are:

Feb. 5 — Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (exhibition race)

Feb. 19 — Daytona 500 

July 2 — Chicago (street course)

Nov. 5 — Phoenix (championship race)