Today, NASCAR announced that it will feature two fixtures of the Chicago arts community – Thomas Lucas and Nicole Beck – as official trophy designers for the inaugural NASCAR Chicago Street Race this summer. Based in the Tri-Taylor neighborhood of Chicago, Beck will design the trophy for The Loop 121 NASCAR Xfinity Series race held on Saturday, July 1, while Lucas will design the prize for the NASCAR Cup Series race on July 2 – the Grant Park 220 – from his studio in Ravenswood.
“This isn’t just a race in Chicago – but it’s a race about Chicago, so it’s important for us to celebrate the incredible art and culture of the city that we’re a part of,” said Julie Giese, Chicago Street Race President. “We are honored to partner with two pillars of the Chicago public arts community like Thomas and Nicole to be a part of this historic event, and we are thrilled that these trophies will invoke both the spirit of this race and the city of Chicago.”
Both artists are alumni of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and are recognized as two of the most prominent names in the Chicago arts community. Lucas, who will design the Cup Series Grant Park 220 trophy, is a protégé of sculpture icon Richard Hunt, one of – if not the – foremost African American abstract sculptors of all time. But for Lucas, a tenured professor at Chicago State University who has designed acclaimed public installations for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), designing this trophy is a personal labor of love.
“I’m a total motorhead. My father was a municipal mechanic, so I grew up with the smell of transmission fluid and the sounds of V8s,” said Lucas. “My artwork has always had a little bit of motorhead culture. It’s about how things connect and operate together, so this is an opportunity to play with things I’m very familiar with as a subject matter for my art.”
For Beck, whose brother competed in motorsports, this is an opportunity to weave the story of Chicago together in with her family’s passion for racing.
“I wanted to embody something unique to Chicago, which is no easy task with a city that’s so multifaceted,” said Beck. “But through the spiral, aero-dynamic design based on the Buckingham Fountain spray, the light blue coloring from the Chicago flag, and the iconic imagery of the Chicago star, we’ve had an opportunity to riff on Chicago history for this trophy, and I’m very proud of the design we came up with.”
Beck’s art can be found at numerous public installations throughout Chicago’s Lakeview, Lincoln Park, and West Town neighborhoods, as well as commissions at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and in downtown Elmhurst.
In keeping with the local connection, both trophies will be fabricated in the city by Chicago-based artisans. Lucas’s Cup Series trophy will be designed and cast in Chicago's Ravenswood and North Lawndale neighborhoods, while Beck’s Xfinity Series trophy will be partly fabricated at Vector Custom Fabricating on Fulton Street and partially in her own metal shop.
The two trophies won’t be the only local art on display during the NASCAR Chicago Street Race Weekend. Chicago-area teens from the local non-profit After School Matters will be displaying a 200-foot, 50-panel NASCAR-themed mural in Butler Field – which will be free and open to the public – during race weekend, July 1-2.