NASCAR’s Chicago Street Race a Historic Success

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    Grant Park, Chicago, IL — July 2, 2023

    Street racing comes to NASCAR! In the heart of downtown Chicago, a 12-turn, 2.2-mile road course in Grant Park will introduce new fans to the sport and hardcore fans to a new style of racing.

    NASCAR Photo

    If you are familiar with the downtown area, here is the turn-by-turn description of the course.

    – Start/Finish Line: On Columbus Drive, in front of Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park
    ◦ 940 feet toward Balbo Drive

    – Turn 1: 90 degrees left on East Balbo Drive
    ◦ 900 feet towards DuSable Lake Shore Drive, with Museum Campus with Grant Park’s fields to the right

    – Turn 2: 90 degrees right on DuSable Lake Shore Drive
    ◦ 1,350 feet on DuSable Lake Shore Drive with Lake Michigan on the left

    – Turn 3: Slight right-hand curve staying on DuSable Lake Shore Drive
    ◦ 825 feet toward Roosevelt Road in front of the Field Museum at the Museum Campus

    – Turn 4: 90 degrees right on East Roosevelt Road
    ◦ 375 feet toward Columbus Drive

    – Turn 5: 90 degrees right on Columbus Drive, heading towards Balbo Drive
    ◦ 2,050 feet on Columbus Drive

    – Turn 6: 90 degrees left on Balbo Drive
    ◦ 1,000 feet down Balbo Drive across a bridge over railroad tracks toward Michigan Avenue

    – Turn 7: 90 degree Right on Michigan Avenue
    ◦ 500 feet on Michigan Avenue

    – Turn 8: Right on Congress Plaza (street version of a chicane)
    ◦ Just over 500 feet toward Ida B. Wells Drive

    – Turn 9: Middle of Congress Plaza Drive, where it crosses over Ida B. Wells Drive
    ◦ Another 500 feet back to Michigan Avenue

    – Turn 10: Right back on Michigan Avenue
    ◦ 475 feet toward E. Jackson Drive

    – Turn 11: 90 degrees right on E. Jackson Drive back towards the lake adjacent to the Art Institute.
    ◦ 950 feet back to Columbus Drive and back across the railroad tracks

    – Turn 12: 90 degrees right on Columbus Drive
    ◦ 925 feet back down Columbus Drive to the S/F Line in front of the Buckingham Fountain

    Maybe, you have raced around some of these corners while on a shopping trip to the “Windy City.”

    Street Racing Experience

    No current driver in the NASCAR Cup Series has street racing experience with the Next-Gen car. However, two have driven on street courses previously.

    Both Michael McDowell and AJ Allmendinger have competed in street-course events in different series. Both finished inside the top 10 just three weeks ago at Sonoma Raceway to build momentum into Chicago, where they will run the same tire setup.

    McDowell spoke to the media before making the trip to Chicago and was asked about the event.

    WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST REACTION TO NASCAR ADDING THIS EVENT TO THE SCHEDULE, AND DO YOU HAVE ANY ADDITIONAL CONCERNS HEADING INTO THIS WEEKEND? “I was excited. I think street courses are so much fun and just great events and opportunities to bring the race to the people. Doing some in the past and seeing how cool of events street course racing is and how fast the cars look – the sights, the sounds, and all those things – I was really excited about it. Yes, there are some challenges – no doubt there are some challenges. I think for all of us.”

    “Logistically, just figuring out the flow and routine of all the things that you probably think we wouldn’t think about… pit-lane, making changes, just panning out where you’re going to go, what happens if this happens, and having a plan for those different scenarios. The on-track stuff, I’m not terribly concerned about. It’s very straightforward. It’s a street course with concrete barriers, 90-degree turns, bumpy, not a lot of run-off, and you can’t make any mistakes. I think all that is pretty straightforward. It’s more of all the other logistics of making sure that you’re at the right place at the right time, have all the right stuff, and can do the things that you need to do.”

    Three road racing specialists are entered in the event. Jenson Button will step into the #15 Ford Mustang for Rick Ware Racing. Andy Lally will also drive for Rick Ware in the #51 Ford. Shane Van Gisbergen will pilot the #91 car for Trackhouse Racing.

    NASCAR Photo

    Rookie Ty Gibbs could be in play for his first career Cup Series win on Sunday. He showed his prowess on road courses in the Xfinity Series with three wins, which included outdueling 2021 Cup Series champion Kyle Larson last season.

    Defending Cup Series champion Joey Logano has a knack for winning at debuting events in the Cup Series, grabbing the inaugural checkered flags at the Bristol Dirt, LA Coliseum, and World Wide Technology Raceway.

    Active Road Course Winners in the Cup Series

    Active Road Course Winners (13) Total Wins Sonoma WGI Charlotte Daytona Indy COTA Road America
    Chase Elliott 7 0 2 2 1 0 1 1
    Martin Truex Jr 5 4 1 0 0 0 0 0
    Kyle Busch 4 2 2 0 0 0 0 0
    Kyle Larson 4 1 2 1 0 0 0 0
    Tyler Reddick 3 0 0 0 0 1 1 1
    Kevin Harvick 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
    AJ Allmendinger 2 0 1 0 0 1 0 0
    Christopher Bell 2 0 0 1 1 0 0 0
    Joey Logano 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
    Ryan Blaney 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
    Denny Hamlin 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
    Daniel Suárez 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
    Ross Chastain 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0

     

    The Chicago Street Race will become the 177th different track the NASCAR Cup Series has competed on in its 75-year history.

    Today’s Race

    The Grant Park 220 is set for 100 laps around the downtown streets of Chicago. Stages will be 20/25/55 laps. Denny Hamlin starts on the pole with Tyler Reddick beside him. The issue is will the rain let up enough for NASCAR to get the race started on time. Super Car Champion Shane Van Gisbergen is starting third in the Project #91 entry for Trackhouse racing. An impressive debut for a one-off specialty driver making his first start in a Cup car.

    The Xfinity race on Saturday was stopped three laps before becoming an official race due to lightning in the area. The conclusion was set for Sunday morning. But Mother Nature would not cooperate. NASCAR was forced to make a difficult decision and made the following announcement.

    “With standing water and flooding a significant issue at the racetrack and throughout the city, there was no option to return to racing prior to shifting to NASCAR Cup Series race operations. Throughout the entire planning process for the Chicago Street Race, our relationship with the City of Chicago has been strong and among the most valuable assets in reaching this historic weekend. In the spirit of that partnership, returning on Monday for the completion of a NASCAR Xfinity Series event two laps short of halfway was an option we chose not to employ. Based on several unprecedented circumstances, NASCAR has made the decision to declare Cole Custer the winner of the race.”

    Torrential rains all day finally subsided at six pm in the evening, and with cars equipped with rain tires, NASCAR was able to get the race started with little track prep.

    Standing water on pit road in Chicago / Lasco Press Photo

    Stage One

    Tyler Reddick(45) wasted no time in jumping up beside the pole-sitter Denny Hamlin(11) after taking the green flag in a single file line. Reddick led the first lap, while Hamlin’s time at the front of the field was over quickly as he slid into the tire barrier in turn two on the second lap.

    Aric Almirola was the first driver to spin on the wet track. Fortunately, he was able to avoid the walls, barriers, and other cars.

    Erik Jones(43), Brad Keselowski(6), and Noah Gragson(42) also spun on the first lap but were able to get themselves sorted out and back up to speed.

    Before they completed the second circuit, Kyle Busch(8) slid windshield deep into the tire barrier in turn six, bringing out a full course caution. Track safety crews pulled Busch out of the mess, and he was able to resume racing with minimal damage.

    On the restart, Reddick led, Christopher Bell(20) ran second, Shane Van Gisbergen(91) sat third, Michael McDowell(34), and Daniel Suarez(99) completed the top five. The top three quickly separated themselves from the remainder of the field.

    Bell hounded Reddick for the first eight laps until a small slip under braking made it possible for Bell to move by into the lead.

    Gragson brought out the second full course caution when he buried his car into the same tire barrier as Kyle Busch and had to be pulled out before he could resume racing. Gragson was the first driver to lose a lap as a result of a racing incident.

    The line-up remained virtually the same for the restart, with the exception of Martin Truex Jr.(19) in fourth ahead of McDowell.

    Stage One Results

    POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
    1 20 Christopher Bell 10
    2 45 Tyler Reddick 9
    3 91 Shane Van Gisbergen 8
    4 19 Martin Truex Jr 7
    5 34 Michael McDowell* 6
    6 99 Daniel Suarez 5
    7 5 Kyle Larson 4
    8 16 AJ Allmendinger 3
    9 54 Ty Gibbs 2
    10 15 Jenson Button* 1

    *Ford Mustang Drivers

    Stage Two

    With no caution at the end of the Stage, some drivers opted to pit at that interval. The swap from rain tires to slicks began with the service stops. The track is still wet in many areas. Drivers are having to tiptoe around until they get the feel of how much traction the tires have without tread on them.

    Van Gisbergen led briefly while cars were ducking in for service. After all teams cycled through pit road, the top five were Bell, Van Gisbergen, Reddick, Truex, and Suarez.

    On lap 29, Gragson again nailed the turn six tire barrier and had to be extradited, causing another full course caution.

    On the restart, the aggression level picked up immensely. Bell continued to lead Reddick, but Kyle Larson(5) was up to third, Suarez fourth, and Van Gisbergen back to fifth.

    Alex Bowman brought out a full course caution on lap 40 when he spun after contact with Denny Hamlin and partially blocked the race track. The yellow flag will give crew chiefs a decision to make. With 60 laps to go, no one can make it to the finish on a single tank of fuel. However, will the race go the full 100-lap distance? Darkness may force NASCAR to cut the event short.

    So do you gamble and pit, or stay out and take the Stage Points available to the top ten finishers in Stage Two? Most of the takers on pit road came from the latter half of the

    The race restarted with two laps to go in the Stage. Suarez overdrove a corner and hit the wall dropping several positions as a result.

    The engine in Alex Bowman’s car let go, and he stopped on the track bringing out the caution with a lap to go in the Stage. Locking the field in position and giving Bell his second Stage win of the race.

    Stage Two Results

    POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
    1 20 Christopher Bell 10
    2 5 Kyle Larson 9
    3 45 Tyler Reddick 8
    4 91 Shane Van Gisbergen 7
    5 34 Michael McDowell* 6
    6 54 Ty Gibbs 5
    7 99 Daniel Suarez 4
    8 19 Martin Truex Jr. 3
    9 16 AJ Allmendinger 2
    10 14 Chase Briscoe* 1

    *Ford Mustang Drivers

    The Final Stage

    NASCAR announced to all teams that they have shortened the race to 75 laps due to the late start and the diminishing sunlight. The leaders then took the opportunity to pit under caution. The nine drivers who pitted earlier just won the track position lottery as they have enough fuel to finish the event. The leaders will all restart in positions from 10th on back.

    The new lineup out front for the restart is as follows:

    1. Justin Haley(31)
    2. Austin Cindric(2)
    3. Chase Elliott(9)
    4. Joey Logano(22)
    5. William Byron(24)
    6. Austin Cindric(2)
    7. Kyle Busch(8)
    8. Kevin Harvick(4)
    9. Aric Almirola(10)
    10. Corey LaJoie(7)

    As the pack tried to negotiate the restart, Byron slid into the wall, Harvick turned sideways across the track, and a single lane of drivers were able to get past the incident until the track became completely blocked, and NASCAR was forced to display the caution again. It will be a nightmare figuring out the position drivers were in when the yellow flag waved.

    Just a typical day on Lake Shore Drive in downtown Chicago.

    When everything was sorted out, the new top ten is as follows.

    1. Justin Haley
    2. Austin Dillon
    3. Chase Elliott
    4. Joey Logano
    5. Kyle Busch
    6. Austin Cindric
    7. Tyler Reddick
    8. Ty Gibbs
    9. Aric Almirola
    10. William Byron

    On Lap 55, Christopher Bell, who led much of the race, slid into the infamous turn six tire barrier and likely takes himself out of contention for the win. Two laps later, Reddick plowed into the same barrier, and the caution had to be waved for track crews to pull him out.

    With two former leaders eliminating themselves, the event has taken on a completely new complexion. Restarting with 15 laps to go, Ty Gibbs in sixth and Shane Van Gisbergen in seventh are the highest-positioned drivers from among the early race leaders.

    Dillon pushed a bit too hard, trying to put pressure on Haley, and crashed into one of the retaining walls eliminating his chance at the win. He was able to limp the car back to the pits before the car was retired to the garage.

    With ten laps to go, the race came down to a battle of the top three. Haley continued to lead, and Elliott closed to his bumper. However, the fastest car on the track was Van Gisbergen ran just behind in third.

    With eight laps to go, SVG, as the announcers were calling him, made the pass on the leader. At the same time, Truex buried his car into the turn-one tire barrier, and the caution came out again to remove him from the predicament.

    Checking the scoring loop when the caution waved, Haley was in front. So that is how they will line up for the restart.

    The historic first street race in Chicago could add an additional chapter to NASCAR’s remarkable 75 years. It has been since 1973 that a specialty driver came into the circuit and scored a victory. Mark Donahue accomplished that feat in an AMC Matador at Riverside, California. It was car owner Roger Penske’s first NASCAR victory.

    Restarting with five laps to go, SVG took the lead again, and after the two swapped the lead back and forth, Van Gisbergen began to pull away. It is hard to describe how big of an upset this would be if the man from Auckland, New Zealand, can hold on to the finish.

    With two laps to go, Bubba Wallace got lose and T-boned Rickie Stenhouse Jr.(47) in the driver’s side, forcing him into a tire barrier, bringing out another caution, and sending the race into overtime.

    The Finish

    The green-white-checkered finish could be a challenge for SVG. It is unlikely he has ever faced such a pressure-packed restart with drivers desperate for a playoff-clinching win on his rear bumper.

    No problem for Van Gisbergen. He never let Haley get near him as he pulled away for the win. With Ross Chastain’s victory last week at Nashville, it’s back-to-back wins for Trackhouse Racing. It had been 60 years since a driver won in his NASCAR debut.

    And yes, SVG knew how to do a burnout.

    Playoff Standings

    Rank DRIVER POINTS STATUS
    1 William Byron 582 In Win(3)
    2 Kyle Busch 560 In Win(3)
    3 Martin Truex Jr. 591 In Win(2)
    4 Kyle Larson 521 In Win(2)
    5 Ross Chastain 573 In Win
    6 Christopher Bell 570 In Win
    7 Denny Hamlin 538 In Win
    8 Ryan Blaney 506 In Win
    9 Joey Logano 491 In Win
    10 Tyler Reddick 463 In Win
    11 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 418 In Win
    12 Kevin Harvick 523 +151
    13 Chris Buescher 476 +104
    14 Brad Keselowski 463 +99
    15 Bubba Wallace 387 +15
    16 Ty Gibbs 378 +6
    NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Cut Line
    17 Daniel Suarez 372 -6
    18 Michael McDowell 368 -10
    19 AJ Allmendinger 354 -24
    20 Alex Bowman 352 -26
    21 Justin Haley 333 -45
    22 Austin Cindric 333 -45
    23 Corey LaJoie 331 -47
    24 Chase Elliott 323 -55
    25 Ryan Preece 312 -66

     

    Results of the Chicago Street Race the Grant Park 220

    POS CAR DRIVER BEHIND LAPS
    1 91 Shane Van Gisbergen 78
    2 31 Justin Haley 1.259 78
    3 9 Chase Elliott 1.685 78
    4 5 Kyle Larson 2.448 78
    5 8 Kyle Busch 2.801 78
    6 2 Austin Cindric 3.915 78
    7 34 Michael McDowell 4.461 78
    8 22 Joey Logano 5.641 78
    9 54 Ty Gibbs 6.382 78
    10 17 Chris Buescher 6.550 78
    11 11 Denny Hamlin 6.734 78
    12 10 Aric Almirola 8.028 78
    13 24 William Byron 8.242 78
    14 7 Corey LaJoie 8.549 78
    15 41 Ryan Preece 8.894 78
    16 43 Erik Jones 10.053 78
    17 16 AJ Allmendinger 10.589 78
    18 20 Christopher Bell 10.959 78
    19 38 Todd Gilliland 11.471 78
    20 14 Chase Briscoe 11.776 78
    21 15 Jenson Button 11.991 78
    22 1 Ross Chastain 13.327 78
    23 78 Josh Bilicki 13.871 78
    24 6 Brad Keselowski 14.672 78
    25 42 Noah Gragson 14.966 78
    26 51 Andy Lally 15.830 78
    27 99 Daniel Suarez 16.125 78
    28 45 Tyler Reddick 16.390 78
    29 4 Kevin Harvick 17.993 78
    30 21 Harrison Burton 18.740 78
    31 23 Bubba Wallace 39.709 78
    32 19 Martin Truex Jr. -1 77
    33 12 Ryan Blaney -1 77
    34 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -1 77
    35 77 Ty Dillon -11 67
    36 3 Austin Dillon -16 62
    37 48 Alex Bowman -38 40