NASCAR Chicago Street Race returning in 2024 with briefer road closures

Despite pushback from politicians and downtown residents, the race will be back under new financial terms.

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NASCAR driver Shane van Gisbergen (91) fist pumps as he celebrates a victory after winning the Grant Park 220 NASCAR Street Race, Sunday, July 2, 2023.

NASCAR driver Shane van Gisbergen (91) celebrates winning the Grant Park 220 NASCAR Street Race July 2.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times (file)

NASCAR officially released its 2024 schedule Wednesday, confirming the Chicago Street Race will return July 6-7. The city said the race operator has committed to shortening road closures and covering more costs.

Mayor Brandon Johnson said the city secured those commitments after talking with NASCAR at the end of this year’s race to address concerns from residents and City Council members. Neither Johnson nor NASCAR would disclose more details.

“As a result of these conversations, NASCAR has agreed to shorten the event’s setup and teardown windows, reducing travel disruption for impacted communities and other residents,” Johnson said in a news release. This year’s race was July 1-2.

Gabino and Lupita Navarrete celebrate by taking a photo at the finish line following the Grant Park 220 NASCAR Street Race on July 2, 2023.

Gabino and Lupita Navarrete take a photo at the finish line after the Grant Park 220 NASCAR Street Race on July 2.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

“NASCAR has also committed to addressing costs incurred by city departments and agencies in facilitating and securing the event as consistent with other large-scale events,” Johnson said. “This is a win for Chicago taxpayers, as the original agreement did not include provisions for such costs.”

Julie Giese, president of the NASCAR Chicago Street Race, said the organization will improve its staging for the 2024 event to reduce disruption for motorists and downtown residents.

“2023 was our first time doing this. We knew we were going to learn a lot. We found some efficiencies,” she said. “We are committed to the city of Chicago.”

She said there will be no changes in the layout of the course through Grant Park.

A report issued Wednesday by Choose Chicago, the city’s tourism agency, said this year’s race brought the city $108.9 million in economic activity from corporate spenders and tourists.

The report, written by Temple University’s Sports Industry Research Center, also found that the race helped drive the highest hotel revenue for the Fourth of July weekend since 2015 and brought in more than $8.3 million in state and local taxes while supporting 750 jobs.

At a news conference, Johnson said the total period for setup and breakdown for the event will be reduced by six days.

“We also got a better deal for the people of Chicago where NASCAR has agreed to invest toward costs that they didn’t do before,” Johnson said.

Of the five alderpersons whose wards are touched by the race, four have already “expressed their commitments” to NASCAR’s return, the mayor said. Conversations with those alderpersons, including those who felt blindsided by the renewal, will continue, he said.

But 42nd Ward Ald. Brendan Reilly, whose ward includes downtown, and who is a critic of the NASCAR event, said he was not privy to any negotiations the administration conducted.

Asked Wednesday if the city was getting a new deal, Reilly said: “If they have, they sure didn’t include the local aldermen in that decision-making process. Again. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

Ald. Bill Conway (34th), whose residents were evenly divided on whether the event should return next year, on Wednesday said he’s “frustrated” that Johnson did not consult with the City Council on continuing NASCAR’s deal.

“That’s no different than what his predecessor, Mayor Lightfoot, did, and it’s no different than the no-bid contract he signed for GardaWorld to provide tents for migrants,” Conway said in a statement.

Conway said he was also disappointed because his constituents’ “No. 1 request” was to hold the event on a weekend other than July 4th.

“I keep hearing about collaboration from this administration, but I’m still waiting to see it,” Conway said.

Downtown residents have mixed feelings about the NASCAR race returning next year, according to surveys conducted this year by downtown alderpersons.

The report for Choose Chicago found that 53% of this year’s racegoers traveled from outside the city. It does not say how much taxpayer money was used by the city to cover security, road repairs and other costs.

Around 79,000 people attended the events over both race days, the report states, falling short of the 100,000 fans that NASCAR had projected.

The attendance count included 47,405 “unique visitors,” the report said. The lower number accounts for those who attended both days of race weekend.

Attendance probably was reduced by heavy rain in the Chicago area.

NASCAR signed an agreement with former Mayor Lori Lightfoot for three annual street race festivals in July, with options for two more years. But the contract contains clauses allowing either party to cancel for “convenience” by giving adequate notice.

The economic impact was in line with estimates, but still shows NASCAR is less lucrative for the economy than Lollapalooza, which in 2022 generated $335.4 million. Lollapalooza runs for more days.

NASCAR’s contract with the Chicago Park District, which controls Grant Park, gave the agency a $500,000 permit fee and a cut of the event’s revenue. Those amounts were scheduled to increase in subsequent years of the three-year deal struck with Lightfoot.

Giese said an accounting of revenue from this year’s event has been submitted to the Park District. She referred questions about the revenue to the park district, which had no immediate comment.

New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen won the inaugural Chicago Street Race on July 2 that played out during a ferociously stormy weekend in Chicago.

“Man, what an experience,” Van Gisbergen said after his rain-shortened Chicago victory. “With the crowd out here, it was so cool. This is what you dream of.

“It was tough but a lot of fun.”

In a wet, wild race that was delayed by a record-setting storm and eventually shortened from 100 to 75 laps to get to the end before darkness fell, Van Gisbergen avoided all kinds of pitfalls — bumps, slippery spots, tire barriers and a gnarly Turn 6 at Columbus and Balbo drives; stalked an impressive list of drivers in front of him; and finally passed leader Justin Haley on Lap 70, bringing it home from there.

It was the first win by a NASCAR Cup Series driver in his first race since Johnny Rutherford pulled off the feat in 1963.

The season-opening Daytona 500 is set for Feb. 18, and the season will conclude in Phoenix on Nov. 10, 2024, according to the NASCAR Cup series schedule.

NASCAR also confirmed it will finally bring its top Cup Series to Iowa for the first time. Cup Series drivers will race at Iowa Speedway in Newton — about 40 minutes east of Des Moines — in June.

Read the economic impact report on NASCAR’s 2023 Chicago Street Race:

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