It’s supposed to be the race that secures NASCAR a legion of new fans.
The first-ever street race in Chicago, which marks the return of racing to Windy City after a four-year hiatus from the Chicago Motor Speedway circuit, has been billed as one-of-a-kind as Kyle Larson and co power their way through Chi-town.
It won’t be the first time that a NASCAR Cup Series race has taken place on a road track, but it will be one of the most eye-catching spectacles in the sport’s history as the cars hammer along Lake Shore Drive and pass the Buckingham Fountain.
The concept, coming in a year in which Formula 1 will host its own race on a specially-designed street track in Las Vegas, could attract a whole new audience to NASCAR in North America as the popularity of motorsports grows thanks, in part, to the success of the Drive to Survive series on Netflix.
So, while NASCAR is ready to return to Chicago, is Chicago ready for the return of NASCAR?
There are still concerns over logistical issues that are yet to be resolved, and with race day slowly approaching – the Grant Park 220 is scheduled to be the season’s 18th race on July 2 – numerous technical details are yet to be confirmed.
It can take up to two weeks to set up a street race and then clean up afterwards, and for a city as busy as Chicago that could have major ramifications on road closures and access to key areas.
Grant Park itself is home to summer camps and cultural events, while the nearby Shedd Aquarium has forecast that it could lose between $2-3 million due to road closures and disruption. Shedd marketing officials have revealed that as many as ‘10,000 guests per day’ could be affected by the race at what would normally be its busiest period of the year over the July 4th weekend.
In response, NASCAR have issued a statement revealing their ‘detailed meetings’ with city departments to come up with a traffic management strategy, with residents as much as possible.
But exact details, they say, won’t be ready for a number of weeks yet.
Making Hay In the Sunshine
A NASCAR race under the summer sun should be a doozie.
It’s well-timed too, with NASCAR racing seeing a resurgence in popularity in 2022. According to reports, the TV broadcasts of the Cup Series on Fox and FS1 saw a 6% increase in viewers last season – the best ratings since the 2017 campaign.
Both the Truck Series and IndyCar Series saw gains too as more motorsport fans in America tune in to the latest action.
That gain in popularity is having knock-on effects in other areas too. Many sportsbooks in the United States are now offering betting lines on NASCAR and other motorsports, with fans in Chicago this summer able to bet on the street race given that wagering in the state of Illinois is now legal – just one of more than two-dozen states to relax their laws.
Although they don’t have a NASCAR race to call their own, Canada is another country in which the popularity of motorsports is soaring. They too have now legalized single-game wagering on a province-by-province basis, meaning that many fans are able to enjoy the excitement of sports betting in Canada.
Lines for the Cup, Truck and Xfinity Series championships are readily available, with Larson and Kyle Busch leading the way in the Cup Series odds. There's also a chance to bet on each race individually, too.
With the Chicago street race and a host of other innovations, 2023 is shaping up to be a golden year for NASCAR racing.