Chicago is ready to stop people from racing on the streets for fun, but professional drivers are welcome.
On Tuesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and NASCAR officials announced that a street course race will be held downtown in the Grant Park area starting in 2023. This will be the first race of its kind.
The start/finish line and pit road for the race will be on Columbus Drive at Buckingham Fountain. The race course will include parts of Columbus Drive, Balbo Drive, DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Roosevelt Road, Michigan Avenue, Congress Plaza Drive, and Jackson Drive. The drivers will go through Grant Park and be within a few blocks of Soldier Field, where the only other NASCAR race in Chicago was held in 1956.
Lightfoot said in a statement, "Chicago's streets are as famous as our skyline, and there's no doubt that we're known as a world-class sports city." "I'm so happy that our partners at NASCAR are coming to Chicago for an event that will bring a lot of people to our city. Chicago is a great place to host this one-of-a-kind event because it has world-class entertainment and hospitality industries and has always been a hub for sports talent."
On July 2, 2023, there will be the first-ever NASCAR Cup Series street course race. Before it, on July 1, 2023, there will be an International Motor Sports Association race.
The people in downtown Ald have already been skeptical about the news. Brendan Reilly, who spoke out about the NASCAR plan hours before Lightfoot's official announcement, said that neither he nor the other aldermen in whose wards the race is expected to happen had been consulted about it.
"I think it will need an open conversation with the wards that will be affected. It's not just the 42nd Ward; the 3rd and 4th Wards are also affected. We aldermen haven't been told much about this, so even though it could be a great chance for the city of Chicago, it needs to be looked at carefully in the light of day "Reilly said on Tuesday morning at a different event. "We want to make sure it's a good deal for the city and that it doesn't put too much stress on the Central Business District and make it hard for commuters, businesses, and local residents."
Reilly also said that the timing of NASCAR's announcement is ironic, since the City Council is about to vote on an ordinance to stop illegal street racing on Wednesday. The ordinance will give police the power to impound cars used in illegal street racing, whether the owner is there or not.
"It's also kind of funny that these drag racing accidents happened over the weekend," said Reilly.
Political opponents of the mayor are also criticizing the move. Paul Vallas, a candidate for mayor, tweeted about a recent case of street racing "NASCAR doesn't need to be brought to downtown Chicago by the mayor of Chicago. Already exists."