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How the “Chicago Grand Prix” Shows the Growing NASCAR Vs F1 Divide

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Joshua Lipowski

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What’s Happening?

Over the past weekend, Internet sleuths noticed that Formula One filed trademarks for theoretical race names in Chicago such as the “Formula 1 Chicago Grand Prix”. While this by no means guarantees a Formula One race in Chicago, Chicago Alderman Brendan Reilly told David Struett of the Chicago Sun-Times that Chicago could only do F1 OR NASCAR, but not both. What if F1 and NASCAR had to compete for a race in Chicago?

  • NASCAR came to Chicago in 2023 to host its first-ever street race. It was not NASCAR’s first race in the area, however, as the Cup Series had raced at Soldier Field in the 1950s and nearby Chicagoland Speedway between 2001 and 2019. The Xfinity and Truck Series also raced at Chicago Motor Speedway before Chicagoland was opened.
  • Formula One has never staged a race in Chicago, but, they have gradually increased their presence in the U.S. Races have been added in Miami and Las Vegas in addition to the already existing race at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
  • Fans do not seem exceptionally concerned that F1 will push NASCAR out of Chicago. Some Chicago residents do not even want a street race in the city to begin with.

Could F1 Actually Hold a Race in Chicago?

It’s worth noting that the Chicago Street Race is not in imminent danger of being switched from a NASCAR race to an F1 race in 2024. Both series schedules have been set in stone, and it is way too late for F1 to stage a race in Chicago this season. However, looking at future years, particularly when NASCAR’s contract with the city has run out, it gets interesting.

2024 is the second of a three-year contract between NASCAR and the City of Chicago to host the street race. This means that 2026 is the first year that the City of Chicago could theoretically look at hosting a race with a different city. That is if they even want to.

Formula One is a much different animal than NASCAR. Formula One is all about big, flashy buildings, fancy motorhomes, and A-List celebrities attending races. It would be 10x the logistical headache of bringing NASCAR in, so, Chicago has to consider it.

Even then, Formula One has a much bigger global brand than NASCAR does, and Formula One is growing in the United States. Maybe Chicago would be interested in bringing such a prestigious international series to the city. Chicago tried for the 2016 Summer Olympics, and they have hosted international events like the FIFA World Cup, and Copa America in the past.

The other question is the race track. The current NASCAR street track would not be suitable for Formula One because it is too small without a long enough straight. To build a Formula One-sized street track in Chicago, a city that was designed and built in the 1800s, would be a massive undertaking. Still, that’s not to say it cannot be done.

In short, F1 could host a race in Chicago, yes, but, there are a lot of hurdles to clear for that to happen. If it does happen, it’s not going to happen anytime soon.

If NASCAR Lost Chicago to F1, What Would That Mean?

If this did happen, as unlikely as it may be, this could be a big loss for NASCAR. This wouldn’t cause NASCAR to lose massive swaths of fans, but, it would give Formula One the United States’ 3rd largest media market.

NASCAR currently has F1 beats when it comes to media market sizes in this country. While Formula One has Miami and Las Vegas, NASCAR has a presence there too along with Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago, Los Angeles, Kansas City, and Phoenix. Formula One taking Chicago away would give F1 a massive market that NASCAR may be outside of.

It would be a big loss for NASCAR in terms of growth and reaching new fans. It would prove to some that Formula One is now the premier motorsport in the U.S. that cities want to welcome in, not NASCAR.

Now, this is a very scary scenario, but, again, it is incredibly unlikely to happen anytime soon. NASCAR is not losing the Chicago Street Race to Formula One in 2024. A lot needs to go down before that even becomes a possibility.

For now, this is merely a theory, and we will have to wait and see if this scenario will ever come to pass. There is no need to panic, but, it is something to watch.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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