NASCAR will celebrate its 75th season with an unprecedented street race through downtown Chicago in yet another radical change to the once staid schedule. The Cup Series will race against the backdrop of Lake Michigan and Grant Park next July 2 in the debut race of a three-year deal with the city of Chicago. The venture was spearheaded by Ben Kennedy, the 30-year-old great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France.
It was Kennedy who successfully orchestrated the January exhibition race inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum that will return for a second running in 2023. Kennedy tells the AP he began working on both the Coliseum and Chicago street race in 2019. The Chicago race will be paired with an IMSA sports car race the day before, as well as music and entertainment options located along the 12-turn, 2.2-mile street course. "Historically we've always been short tracks, intermediates, superspeedways, eventually started getting more road courses and then came up with the Coliseum concept," Kennedy says.
"But the street course is something we haven't explored a whole lot before, and the ability for us to get a downtown setting like this and bring racing to our fans, a street course is a perfect opportunity for it," Kennedy says. The downtown course will include famed areas of Chicago, including Lake Shore Drive, Michigan Avenue, and South Columbia Drive, where the start/finish line and pit road will be located directly in front of Buckingham Fountain. "Chicago’s streets are as iconic as our skyline and our reputation as a world-class sports city is indisputable," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement welcoming NASCAR to Chicago.
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