NASCAR Chicago Street Race faces delicate balancing act

NASCAR Chicago Street Race faces delicate balancing act

CHICAGO (CBS) — The first-ever NASCAR street race will take place in downtown Chicago on the first weekend of July. Racing is uncharted territory for Chicago and NASCAR.

CBS 2’s Matt Zahn spoke with the longtime NASCAR track manager responsible for managing all aspects of this brand new event and the logistical challenges they face.

“There’s this unknown. We’ve never done this before. How is this going to work? So it’s up to us, really, to make sure we’re as prepared as possible,” Julie Giese said. , president of the Chicago Street Race.

That’s part of the reason NASCAR appointed Giese, the former president of Phoenix Raceway, to oversee all things Chicago’s first-ever street course. And she and her team do it from an office in downtown Chicago.

“We’re going to be here 365 days a year. It was really important to us. Being part of the community is hugely important and giving back to the communities we race in. So we have about half a dozen employees right now, we’re going to go to just over a dozen,” she said.

How will they make their plan to turn the city streets in and around Grant Park into a NASCAR racing circuit work?

“The beauty of a street race is that we will be racing on the street, so there is little work to do there, and we will bring concrete barriers to go around the course which will have fences. there’s fencing that goes around that. Then I think the biggest element is probably the construction of the structure. It’s going to be very similar to going to a golf tournament, and you see the chalets at the tee boxes and the greens. That’s the type of experience that we’re going to live and create,” she said.

Will people be able to move around the racecourse like on a golf course?

“Absolutely, and I think that’s also one of the beauties of a road race is that you have the ability to move around the footprint and see the race from different vantage points,” she said.

The organizers have a pretty good idea of ​​what the track will look like. The drivers did a bit of testing, hosting a virtual race in downtown Chicago in 2021.

“It was a really useful proof of concept for us just to see that it was possible, and it was like one of those, kind of the starting point for the conversations to make it a reality,” said Giese.

As for the route they chose, Giese said it was something that had been in the works for years.

The start/finish line and pit road for the race will be along Columbus Drive at Buckingham Fountain, with the race course including portions of Columbus Drive, Balbo Drive, DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Roosevelt Road, Michigan Avenue, Congress Plaza Drive and Jackson Drive, taking drivers through Grant Park and a few blocks to Soldier Field, which hosted the only other NASCAR race in Chicago in 1956.

“The iconic place with Grant Park, its beauty; then you have the skyline, the lake, the Buckingham Fountain – it all converged to be a pretty special place to have a race,” she said. declared.

Of course, the display of these iconic landmarks will come with some disruption, with the NASCAR event taking over most of Grant Park for two weeks. Giese said they try to minimize disruption as much as possible.

“It’s just about making sure we have that window as narrow as possible and that we can leave the streets open for as long as possible and then reopen them, and that’s something we’re working on right now.” , she said.

So how do they plan to balance the disruption against the quality they want the event to be?

“Ultimately, we’re going to be hosting a race for the first time ever in downtown Chicago. It’s a great opportunity for us to show what Chicago is and what makes Chicago such an amazing city,” she said.

The race will have cars moving at speeds of 100mph on the straights, but lots of tight corners.

Giese said they are making sure everyone downtown understands exactly what will be happening for the entire event. She also said they projected at least $113 million in economic impact for Chicago.

Race weekend includes a music festival featuring The Chainsmokers, Miranda Lambert, The Black Crowes and Charley Crockett.

Two-day general admission tickets, starting at $269, go on sale Thursday at 10 a.m. Fans can subscribe at for early access to general admission tickets as part of a presale on January 31 and February 1. .

Reserved tickets for two days are already on sale starting at $465. Reserved tickets offer premium experiences such as elevated seating in the President’s Paddock Club, above the treeline of the race course along Pit Road, giving fans a view of almost the entire course , as well as on the stands. Other premium benefits include food and beverages, pre-race driver briefings and premium club spaces.

Matt Zahn

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