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Will the Chicago Street Race Return in 2025?

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What’s Happening?

For the second year in a row, the City of Chicago is setting up for NASCAR to take over the city streets. Despite being marred by bad weather and negative publicity, the 2023 event produced an entertaining race. The event’s second year has some optimism, but a city spokesperson told Robert Channick of the Chicago Tribune that they have yet to reach a “Final decision” on whether or not to bring the event back for a third year.

  • The Chicago Street Race was the first time NASCAR raced on city streets since the Daytona Beach/Road Course in the sport’s infancy. The local reception of the event, especially in the weeks leading up, was mixed at best.
  • However, the event’s second year has seen some improvements compared to last year. This includes an abbreviated setup time and the lessons learned from the first year.
  • Fans are hotly anticipating the Chicago Street Race. However, the event’s future remains a mystery.

What We Know

NASCAR and the City of Chicago are making changes to ensure this year’s event is smoother than last year. This includes reducing setup from 25 days to 19 days and NASCAR agreeing to fork out an extra $2 million for expenses, including police overtime, according to Channick. Julie Giese had this to say to Channick about these changes from last year to this year.

I think the big difference this year versus last year is people have an understanding of what the event is and how it comes together and what to expect. It wasn’t as bad as everyone expected last year as far as moving around the city.

Julie Giese

Tim Calkins, a Northwestern University Professor, told Channick that he believes the locals are more receptive to the event than last year.

They understand there’s some appeal to it, and they’re much more open-minded to welcome the event to the city.

Tim Calkins

The Harris Poll recently surveyed Chicago residents about how they will be impacted by the Street Race. While only 39% of fans said this event and those who like it are good for the city, fewer (32%) said they anticipate being “inconvenienced” by the event. However, only 24% of people believe this is good for Chicago residents.

Safe to say, local support for the event is…questionable at best. The city leadership sees that, too, and a spokesperson had this to say to Channick.

We will make a final decision on the third year and beyond in the near future.

Chicago spokesperson

Will it Come Back?

We don’t know everything about how the City ultimately feels about the event, so the best we can do is look at this from all angles.

At the moment, Chicago and NASCAR have a three-year contract, with Channick reporting there is a two-year option. If Chicago decides to pull out of the event, they must give NASCAR 180 days’ notice, meaning that a decision must be made just after the New Year at the latest.

This is a totally different animal from a normal race. Rather than hosting an event at a purpose-built race track, NASCAR is taking over a city center for a weekend-plus. That’s an objective inconvenience to many, unlike a regular race at a purpose-built track, where NASCAR does its thing likely well away from the city center. There has to be a genuine return on investment for this to make sense in the long term, hence the changes made this year.

From the outside, it’s certainly easy to notice that there is a perfectly good NASCAR race track in the Chicago metro area, Chicagoland Speedway. From a convenience perspective, that could be a good solution. However, the Street Race can be quite a good look for Chicago, as in 2023, it was the second-most viewed NASCAR race of the season.

There’s also the reality that Chicago has had plenty of spats with current sports teams about funding for new stadiums or renovations. The Cubs took years to convince the city to install lights at Wrigley Field in the 1980s, and the city refused to help fund the Cubs’ renovation of Wrigley Field in the mid-late 2010s. The White Sox and the Bears are looking to construct new stadiums, but getting funding from the city has been challenging.

If Chicago struggles to give local teams at least some funding, how long will they be willing to support NASCAR? No one knows for sure.

The focus is on this weekend; hopefully, we will see the race happen without the weather messing up the weekend. Time will tell if it becomes a long-term event, and the City of Chicago has a lot of positives and negatives to weigh.

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Joshua Lipowski

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