CHICAGO (WLS) -- NASCAR is coming to Chicago. Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined NASCAR leaders, including driver Bubba Wallace, Tuesday afternoon to announce the city will host a street racing event for the next several years.
NASCAR Chicago Street Racing Weekend will be held downtown on July 1 and 2, 2023 and is expected to return annually until 2025.
"If you think about Chicago, you think about the rich history of sports here," said Bob Kennedy, senior vice president of racing development and strategy for NASCAR. "You think about the inconic skyline, you think about the iconic landmarks around the city."
"I think it's going to be one of the most iconic race courses, maybe ever," Lightfoot said.
NASCAR plans to hold the race on a temporary street course downtown in the Grant Park area.
This would be the first of its kind, in that it's not on an actual course but rather temporary street courses. It will take drivers through the downtown lakefront area around Grant Park at speeds near 180 mph.
The course will start and end at Buckingham Fountain, and will loop through major city arteries like DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Michigan Avenue, Columbus Drive and select surrounding streets to form a 12-turn, 2.2 mile course, according to the press release from the mayor's office.
Wallace said this new course will attract local attention on familiar ground for the city.
"These are the same streets you guys drive on every day," Wallace said. "So you guys get to experience that. We'll just be unrestricted on the speed limit."
Lightfoot hopes the deal will be another spark in Chicago's economic engine.
"Lolla is about a $300 million enterprise for us," Lightfoot said. "So, when I think about us, continuing to recover from the pandemic and the opportunities for restaurants, bars and hotels... it's hard to even put a value on that."
Chicago's Loop Alliance said it is looking forward to the revenue the events will bring, saying in part in a statement, "Events and tourism are great economic drivers of the Loop, and the potential NASCAR races would be a boost to a recovering hospitality and tourism sector."
Neighbors expressed concerns about the noise and traffic the event will bring, and some downtown aldermen said the mayor's office kept them in the dark about any details.
"We want to make sure it's a good deal for the city and it doesn't overly burden the central business district and inconvenience commuters, businesses and local residents," said 42nd Ward Ald. Brendan Reilly.
Lightfoot also dismissed the notion that this could encourage more drag racing and drifting incidents. She said comparing the two is "apple and oranges."
"I mean drag racing, what we're seeing is an uncontrolled, spontaneous event that creats a lot of havoc and safety issues," Lightfoot said. "This is NASCAR, it's a completely different environment."
The 2023 race will be a part of NASCAR's 75th anniversary. Tickets for the event are scheduled to go on sale later this summer.