The rumors that have persisted throughout 2022 have now become fact. NASCAR has announced that the Cup Series drivers will head to the streets of Chicago in 2023 for the first-ever street circuit race.
The announcement took place on July 19 outside the NBC Tower in Chicago, Ill. Ben Kennedy, Senior Vice President, Racing Development & Strategy, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and 23XI Racing driver Bubba Wallace were among those in attendance for the special unveiling. They met with media members and revealed that the Cup Series race will take place on July 1-2, 2023.
The course will feature 12 turns as drivers compete over 2.2 miles. They will cross the start-finish line, which will be located next to the iconic Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park. The Cup Series race will cap off a weekend also featuring one of the IMSA-sanctioned series. Though NASCAR did not reveal which one.
“Like the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, we seized an incredible opportunity to add an unprecedented element to our schedule and take center stage in the heart of another major metropolitan market,” Kennedy said in a press release. “This is the ideal setting for the first-ever NASCAR Cup Series street race.
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“The NASCAR Cup Series Next Gen cars and the IMSA machines will race along the shores of Lake Michigan in downtown Chicago, marking a truly historic moment for our sport. We are very appreciative of Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her team, along with the entire City of Chicago for working with us to make this concept a reality.”
The Route Will Involve Several Landmarks
According to the released course map, the Cup Series drivers will travel on E. Jackson Dr., E Congress Plaza Dr., S. Columbus Dr., E. Balbo Dr., South Lake Shore Dr., E Roosevelt Dr., and South Columbus Dr. as they battle for the win.
This route will take them through Grant Park and up to the edge of Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears. The football stadium previously served as the site of a NASCAR race on July 21, 1956, when Fireball Roberts captured the checkered flag.
“Chicago’s streets are as iconic as our skyline and our reputation as a world class sports city is indisputable,” Mayor Lightfoot said. “I am thrilled to welcome our partners at NASCAR to Chicago for an event that will attract thousands of people to our city. Chicago’s world class entertainment and hospitality industries, coupled with our city’s history as a conduit for sports talent, make us the perfect hosts for this unique event.”
Drivers Will Have a Wide Range of Responses
NASCAR executives, some team owners, and the decision-makers from Chicago have shown support for the idea of the street race. Now the drivers will have to respond with their thoughts about the idea and how this style of track will test them compared to the various road courses.
The majority of the Cup Series drivers have experience with the streets of Chicago. NASCAR tested out a virtual version during an iRacing event, which James Davison dominated. He led all 51 laps and won the Windy City 110 on the 2.14-mile track by building up a lead of nearly one minute. He also avoided some major incidents early.
“Hopefully, it goes way better than the iRacing deal did when we did that,” Alex Bowman told PRN’s Mark Garrow. “Because that was an absolute disaster. But I think it could be cool. I’m all for new experiences and driving new things and new tracks and everything. So it will definitely be interesting.”