Ford Performance – Chicago Street Race Advance

CHICAGO STREET RACE NOTES

Saturday, July 1 – NASCAR XFINITY Series, 5 p.m. ET (USA)

Sunday, July 2 – NASCAR Cup Series, 5:30 p.m. ET (NBC)

This will mark the first time NASCAR will be competing on a street course as downtown Chicago plays host to the NASCAR Cup and NASCAR XFINITY Series this weekend.

 
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Brad Keselowski: “I mean, I think there are a number of things you look at. Of course, you want the community to want you to be there. I think that’s probably the biggest thing amongst anything – and that’s not just for Chicago, but for any racetrack. You want a community that wants you there. That means different things for different people. You want people that come to the racetrack and say that it was a once in a lifetime experience, and you want kids that go there and tell the story to their friends… and you want the social media buzz. What you don’t want is people that come out and say, ‘Hey, these guys shouldn’t be here’ and all those things. I think what we’re looking for, what I’m looking for, is a community that’s engaged, that wants us there and has a good time – and that we can deliver a great race to them.

 

The great thing is that we’ve seen this model with IndyCar and Formula 1 where you bring the race to the people. It has its strengths and weaknesses. The strengths are that you’re in a city or city center, it’s easier access for people and there is a community that gets really excited. The difficult part is all the logistical things – how do you execute the race, not just as a race team but the entire sport. That can be tedious, and like any other sport, sometimes it works really well and sometimes it doesn’t. But I think probably more than anything, I’m happy to see NASCAR willing to try new things. I think that’s an important thing for our sport – schedule variability. You know, I came into the sport full-time in 2010 and the schedule pretty much looked the same for a while. Up until 2017-2018, it was the same schedule every year. That was really unhealthy for us and the sport. So to see the movement that we have now, I think is really positive. There are going to be wins, and there are going to be losses. There are going to be events we look at and say, ‘We were proud of the results and proud of taking a chance,’ and there are going to be some that we look back and go, ‘That one didn’t work out. Back to the drawing board.’ And that’s okay. Of course we all hope Chicago is one of the ones that’s a win, but even if it’s not, I really don’t see how we can lose as an industry and as a whole with that mentality of thinking.”

Harrison Burton: “NASCAR has always been known for being innovative, and we’re definitely doing that this year. I think whether it’s North Wilkesboro – which was kind of like going back to old-school – or Chicago Street Race, which is something we’ve never done. I feel like it’s been good. I know a lot of new fans have their eye on Chicago, and I hope we can put on a good show and performance. It’s going to be a really challenging racetrack. You’re going to see drivers make mistakes, and you’re going to see them get put in tough situations. I think the more it goes in that direction as far as the racetrack goes, where a driver gets put in a position that they need to do something very challenging, I think the better the show is. The more uncomfortable we are, usually, the happier the fans are. Whether it be superspeedway racing, or you go to Homestead or Darlington and have to run an inch off the wall. There are places that have that spectacle. It’ll be cool for the fans and cool for us, because we get to do something that’s very different and challenging. I think Chicago will be like that.”

Ryan Blaney: “We’ve run on the sim a couple times… it’s narrow, bumpy, and I expect all that from a street course. It’s hard to tell what it’s going to be like until we get out there in person and kind of get racing around guys or even out there on the track to see how rough it is, what the corners are like. I would have liked to see run-offs, personally. But, I guess they couldn’t rent that space. That’s the only thing that worries me about it. Everything else is fine. You kind of need run-off on a street course with 90-degree corners after long straightaways, but we’ll deal with it.

 

It’s a cool opportunity, cool event. I really hope that we don’t go and make fools of ourselves if we go there and just wad everything up. I think to avoid some of that stuff, a lot of the corners are kind of blind and you can’t see around them if there’s something. Hopefully they bring in some really good corner marshals to kind of let you know what’s going on around each corner. That would really help that. It’s just hard to know. I think everyone’s going to be fine. You get in the race, and you never know how people are going to run. That’s everything. It’ll be fun. Whatever happens, happens. We’re going. It’s rapidly approaching, so I’m looking forward to it no matter what. It’ll be unique.

 

The roughest part on the sim is getting into Turn 4 – the long straightaway, I think you’re by the lake and you kind of veer right, and there are massive bumps while you’re braking. Then you have the really tight Turn 5, too. I think you’ll see guys try to out-brake people there, but I don’t know if that’s going to be the best idea. But, I think into six is a good one because it’s a long straightaway into a tight corner. I don’t think at seven you’ll be able to (pass), because you’re going over the bridge and it’s kind of a downhill into a really tight one. I don’t know. It’s hard to tell. End of the last corner into Turn 1 I could see trying to out-brake somebody. It’s hard to tell when you’re running by yourself on the sim. Until you get laps there, maybe you’re around cars and think, ‘Ok, maybe I can kind of out-brake someone here or get a run off here.’ It’s kind of hard to tell when you’re running on the sim by yourself.

 

I don’t think anyone is going to be comfortable going in qualifying after 50 minutes. I mean, you’re going to have your fast cars and cars that aren’t as fast. But, no one is going to be comfortable after 50 minutes at that place. There are still things you’re going to want to learn, and you’re not going to get as many laps as you’d like to get on it before qualifying rolls around. The beauty of it: We’re all running the same racetrack. You just try to learn it faster than everyone else. Hopefully you hit the setups right, prioritize what you need to prioritize. It’s going to be a tough weekend – really tough to learn the track quickly. I think all but maybe two or three (drivers) have ever done a street race before. I think it’s going to be a big learning curve for everybody. It’s going to be tough, but that’s why we do this. I like things that are challenging, and that’s what separates really good guys from the rest of the field.”

Joey Logano: “The biggest thing is that there are a lot of blind corners there. There is a good chance that you can come around the corner and a guy is sitting sideways in the middle of the racetrack. The walls are high and it’s a 90-degree (turn). There could be a pile-up right over the hill, before the last corner – there’s that little overhill piece. It’s blind. There’s a lot of opportunities for pile-ups in other corners.

 

It’s exciting. I probably would have gone through the ranks a different way, and thought more about road courses, dirt races and different kinds of racing – besides just short track, asphalt stuff. Because this has always been the goal. It’s been fun for me because it’s been challenging. It’s not been 15 years of the same tracks over and over. It’s something fresh. Whether it’s the car or schedule changing, a lot of the stuff has changed. It’s always important for us to keep in mind what got us here or what’s the roots. I think we’ve done a good job, but also evolving with the times. Our sport has always evolved and changed. We need to continue, and I think we’ve seen a lot of success for our sport– going to venues that we’ve never been to before. 

 

Bringing the race to the fan, I’ve said this before, it’s a lot to ask a family. To ask my kids to load up the car, drive four hours down the road to a racetrack, watch a three-hour race, load back up, and drive four hours back home with a five-year-old and a three-year-old – you’re asking a lot. That’s a hard freaking day. I think going to the fans, making that trip easier – not getting hotels and not packing everything up. You’re making that trip less expensive. It is very successful. I’ve seen it at Road America. We’ve seen it at the Clash, and then there’s the ‘what if’ that nobody knows what’s going to happen. I think all those things are just great for our sport.”

Aric Almirola: “I think it’s great for our sport to add new venues and to bring more awareness to our sport by going to these different places. I think it’s great that we’re getting outside of our box, outside of our comfort zone. I hope it plays out to be a great race. Regardless if it turns out to be a great race or a horrible one, it is still creating a lot of buzz, a lot of attention and a lot of media. Our sport needs that. We’re still working really hard to grow our sport. We don’t want our sport to stay flat. It declined for years, it got flat, and then started to grow back in the right direction. I feel like the industry as a whole needs that growth and opportunity to go put on a show in front of people who wouldn’t typically watch.” 

Michael McDowell: “It’s going to be a fun race – no doubt about it. But it’s a challenging track. It’s got some really narrow sections, some wider ones, high speed and low speed. So yeah, it’s a street course. I’m looking forward to it. I’m thinking it’ll be a challenge for a lot of us, but it will be an exciting weekend. I think it’s a great opportunity for us to go and have a really good run with a chance of winning.

 

It’s pretty unique. It has some sections in it that kind of remind me of Long Beach. That’s probably the closest that I think I could probably put it toward. But, it has more elevation, more cresting hills going into Turn 7, so it has a lot of character. Like I said, I’m excited. I think it’ll be a lot of fun.

 

I like mixing it up, I like new venues. But, I’m biased toward road courses too. I think that this Next Gen car allows opportunities to explore new venues. I don’t think the old car would have been even really a possibility at Chicago, just turning radius and overall toughness of the car clipping barriers and stuff like that. I’m excited that we’re mixing it up. I’m excited that we have some new tracks. I think keeping that fresh and keeping it moving is good. Sometimes, I feel like we may do things for too long. Moving it around is a good thing.”

Austin Cindric: “My learning curve is still going to be just as high as everybody else’s as far as learning the racetrack. My expectations may be in a different place as far as what’s normal and what’s not. I feel like that’s where my experience, AJ [Allmendinger]’s experience, or Jenson [Button]’s experience on street courses will come in, because you’re already past the risk management part of it – the challenges. But, qualifying will be super important. Just like what you see in IndyCar. Any track that is narrow, it’ll be tough to pass. I feel like that shouldn’t be a negative – it should be sensationalized. It means that everyone should watch on Saturday, because that has a big play in the race. It’s like watching Formula 1. Watching Saturday qualifying has just as much excitement as it is watching the race. I feel like our race on Sunday will probably be more exciting than an F1 race, but that’s probably my opinion. I certainly think qualifying will play a big role for setting yourself up for a great result.”

Chris Buescher: “I don’t know how (road racing) became a strong suit, but I like road racing and I like doing it four or five times a year. But with that, the Chicago course coming up: I’ve been looking at it on iRacing and with some simulator time coming up, trying to figure out how to make that the best it can be for us. We don’t know anything about street racing. One of these rain delays we’ve been in the last… it seems like every week… I was watching IndyCar street racing, just realizing how tight it is in a car that’s half the size of ours. We have our work cut out for us. I think the best thing we can do is sit on pole, stay clean and run away with it. It’s going to be a big challenge for everybody. But, it is road racing, same regards. I do look at that as a good opportunity for us heading into it. Just have to do as much homework as we can. We have to be as prepared as possible – 50 minute practice is going to go quick. We are limited to all the same minimal adjustments that we have during our 20 minute session. It’s really not a practice to get the car dialed in. It’s just a little bit more time for all the drivers to gather their senses. We got to really do our homework ahead of time and roll-out good.”

 

SOLDIER FIELD CUP HISTORY

NASCAR has hosted one Cup Series race in Chicago with that coming inside historic Soldier Field on July 21, 1956. The 200-lap race was held on a half-mile track and Fireball Roberts led a Ford Motor Company sweep of the top three positions as only five cars finished on the lead lap. Roberts drove to victory in a ‘56 Ford while Jim Paschal was second in a ‘56 Mercury and Ralph Moody third in a ‘56 Ford. Both Roberts and Moody were driving for owner Pete DePaolo, winner of the 1925 Indianapolis 500, as part of Ford’s first full season of factory-backed stock car racing. The end result that season was 14 series victories and Ford’s first manufacturers’ championship.

 

SOLDIER FIELD CONVERTIBLE HISTORY

In addition to the Cup Series race, NASCAR also held three convertible races at Soldier Field – two in 1956 and one more in 1957. NASCAR Hall of Famers Curtis Turner and Glen Wood both drove their respective ‘56 Fords to victory during that time. Turner, driving for DePaolo, led a race-high 329-of-500 laps while teammate Joe Weatherly led the other 171 circuits to give Ford a 1-2 finish on Sept. 9, 1956. Wood beat Possum Jones on June 29, 1957 as those were the only two drivers to take the checkered flag on the lead lap.

 
 

THREE FOR THE ROAD

Ford will be going for its third straight NASCAR Xfinity Series win on a road/street course and third in the last four weeks overall this weekend in Chicago.  Cole Custer and Aric Almirola took checkered flags in Portland and Sonoma, respectively, while Riley Herbst took runner-up honors last weekend in Nashville.  Custer went from third to first on the final restart at the Portland road course with two laps to go to claim his 11th career series victory while Almirola led the last 15 circuits to win the inaugural series race in Sonoma two weeks ago.

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