Chicago NASCAR race ends on excited note; now cleanup and analysis begins

John Garcia Image
Monday, July 3, 2023
With NASCAR Chicago race over, teardown and analysis begin
Now that the first ever NASCAR Chicago Street Race weekend is over, the teardown and econonmic analysis can begin.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Now that the first ever Chicago NASCAR race weekend is over, crews are tearing down the course while businesses assess the economic impact.

After hours of rain flooded the 12-turn, 2.2-mile course and scuttled the end of the Xfinity stop, it cleared up in time to get the Cup Series on the tricky track, albeit for a race cut short by the looming darkness.

The wet conditions added another element to an already challenging course that included seven 90-degree turns, and transitions from concrete to asphalt and back. But the drivers figured it out on the fly, and Shane van Gisbergen powered to the front in the final laps to secure the win.

And just like that, NASCAR's first try at a downtown Chicago race won over at least some of the skeptics that had wondered aloud about its feasibility ever since it was announced a year ago.

"Truthfully, for a street course, I think it raced better than I thought it would," said Chase Briscoe, who finished 20th. "There are definitely parts that can be improved like widening the track and other certain things. But, all things considered, it surprised me compared to what I thought it was going to be."

Within hours of the end of the race, workers got to returning the streets to regular traffic, and analysis of the event began immediately.

"We'll definitely spend some time looking at that, seeing if there are ways we can do this differently but for the first year, really proud of the team. There was a lot of hard work gone into this," said Julie Giese, president of Chicago Street Race.

The heavy rain all weekend was almost a worst case scenario for race officials and the city. Beyond changes to the races, they also canceled the headlining concerts planned for Hutchinson Field because of the soaked grounds.

Some city council members, like 2nd Ward alderman Brian Hopkins, watched closely to decide if they wanted the race back next year.

"Was the economic benefit to the city worth the inconvenience, aggravation and cancellation of other events? That we don't know," Hopkins said.

Before the race, NASCAR officials estimated an economic impact for more than $100 million for the city. Ald. Hopkins is hoping to see an independent economic impact study to determine hotel occupancy rates and restaurant business now that the weekend is over.

Restauranteur Sam Sanchez, said his places, including Old Crow Steakhouse, Treehouse and Moe's Cantina, did well.

"Even with the bad weather, and that much rain, our restaurants still did very, very well," he said.

For their part, NASCAR officials said despite the weather, the race was a success.

"This event, for us, was about introducing our sport to new fans. We saw that with over 80 percent of fans new to NASCAR," Giese said.

While there will be much more debriefing in the coming days and weeks, the immediate priority for crews right now is to remove barriers and reopen roads by Tuesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.