Two veteran broadcasters have just weighed in about the biggest story in NASCAR. Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds have expressed praise for the major schedule change that adds the Chicago street race to the 2023 Cup Series schedule.
The two broadcasters provided their thoughts after a special promotional event in the Windy City. They explained that this move continues to show that NASCAR is unafraid to make drastic changes to build the sport and potentially reach a new group of fans. Joy also revealed that he has a personal connection to the new track location.
“I’m so proud of the leadership in our sport right now, from the leaders at NASCAR to the management at FOX and NBC having their finger on the pulse of the sport and what fans want to see,” McReynolds said in a statement provided by FOX Sports. “They’ve stepped outside the box and done so many fresh, exciting things the past couple of years that truly seem to be growing the popularity of NASCAR.
“Change can be scary. For a while there, not much was changing other than moving a few race dates around; rinse and repeat. But we’ve seen an overhaul of the schedule and venues in the last couple of years that has injected some new life into the sport, and I couldn’t be more pleased with it.”
ALL the latest NASCAR news straight to your inbox! Subscribe to the Heavy on NASCAR newsletter here!
“I was born in Chicago, and I’m really excited about the prospect of IMSA and NASCAR Cup cars racing through Grant Park on 4th of July weekend,” Joy added. “I hope NASCAR’s Wisconsin fans will support the Chicago race, and I hope Cup cars can someday return to Elkhart Lake.”
The Race Will Feature Some Intense Moments
Following the announcement of the Chicago street race, “Backseat Drivers” provided a virtual look at the course. A Next Gen car covered the 2.2 miles in iRacing while Kyle Petty and Steve Letarte did a play-by-play.
They both mentioned during the lap that there are several spots where the cars could get bunched up, starting with Turn 1. Letarte noted that there isn’t much runoff room on the first turn, which could force the teams to go single-file. They will then tackle the blind corner on Turn 2, which creates even more difficulty.
The potential trouble spots continue with Turn 6, which is a heavy braking zone after a long straightaway. Turn 11 will be another blind corner that leads into an elevation change as the drivers go up and over a bridge.
“A Chicago street course race falls right in the wheelhouse of the Next Gen car,” McReynolds added. “Everything about this car is perfect for road racing — whether on a road course or a street course. It’s still about turning right and left like on a road course. It’s still about getting good drive off of the corner like on a road course, and it’s still about heavy braking getting into the corners.
“There will be a lot of similarities with the setups, as a result. Of course, you’re at the mercy of the condition of the streets as far as whether one portion has more or less grip than another. I think we’ll see NASCAR and the drivers leaning on the folks at iRacing because you can’t test on the street course before the event. You have to wait until the course is set up, get out there and do it. But Steve Myers and his group at iRacing will help everyone get ahead of the curve before we ever roll into Chicago.”
Several Unknowns Remain Ahead of the 2023 Race
McReynolds had strong comments about the trip to the Chicago street course, as well as how the cars will handle the city streets. He believes that the Next Gen cars are made for this type of race, but no one knows exactly how they will handle it until the tires are on the temporary track.
The Cup Series drivers tested out the virtual version of Chicago during the 2021 season. They took part in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series ahead of the trip to Sonoma Raceway, and they put the new cars through their paces.
Several drivers achieved success, such as James Davison and Josh Bilicki, while others struggled. Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin, in particular, both spun out on their own while trying to navigate the tight turns.
“It’s the same streets you guys drive on every day, so you guys get to experience that,” Bubba Wallace told the assembled media members in Chicago. “We’ll just be unrestricted on the speed limit and go as fast as we can, right. Just taking it all in and seeing how the car’s going to react. These cars are way different, but I feel like they’re suitable for road course racing. Street course racing is totally different than road course though, so we will figure it all out together.”