Where's the best NASCAR action? A turn-by-turn guide to Chicago's street race course

We have a full breakdown of each turn on the lakefront course and the challenges drivers face.

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Cars race through Turn 8 on the second day of NASCAR’s first street race in downtown Chicago on Sunday, July 2, 2023. The NASCAR Cup Series' Inaugural Grant Park 220 resumed after a hold due to heavy rain and flooding.

Drivers navigate a tricky Turn 8 onto Congress Plaza during last year’s Grant Park 220. This year’s race will test driver’s abilities to navigate the NASCAR Chicago street race course’s sharp turns.

Mustafa Hussain/For the Sun-Times

NASCAR is back in Chicago this weekend, and so is a street course through Grant Park that will test drivers’ abilities to navigate tight corners and uneven roads.

Last year’s Cup Series race, the Grant Park 220, was a wreck-filled scramble. After a long delay following record rainfall, the field couldn’t make it a full lap before the first crash.

The layout of the 2.2-mile track is mostly the same for this year’s abbreviated Grant Park 165. Based off last year’s action, we can make some good guesses about what corners will cause the most problems for drivers this year during the 75-lap race.

Here’s a full breakdown of each turn and the challenges they pose.

Turn 1

Balbo and Columbus drives

This is the first turn that drivers will hit once the green flag drops, a sharp 90-degree turn at the exit of Pit Road and the end of a front stretch that includes the start/finish line.

It was a tricky turn for drivers to navigate last year. During qualifying, Kevin Harvick crashed his No. 4 Ford hard into the concrete barrier in this turn, putting him at the back of the pack at the start of the Cup Series race. He finished 29th.

Christopher Bell, who led more laps than anyone else in last year’s Grant Park 220, slid into the tire barrier here, sending him to the back of the pack. Bell is also a favorite for this year’s Grant Park 165 — he dominated the pack last week in Nashville, leading 131 laps before crashing out.

Last year’s Loop 121 winner, Cole Custer, noted the challenge this narrow turn presents.

“It was kind of like there was a double point in that wall that you can’t really see until you hit it,” Custer said after last year’s race.

Best views: Jack Daniels Turn 1 Club, W. Field Reserved grandstand

Turn 1 of the NASCAR Chicago street race course under construction on Tuesday, July 2, 2024.

Turn 1 of the NASCAR Chicago street race course under construction Tuesday.

Zubaer Khan/Sun-Times

Turn 2

Balbo Drive and DuSable Lake Shore Drive

The next turn is another sharp corner. But it is also a decent place to make a pass, coming right before one of the longest, widest and straightest sections of the track on DuSable Lake Shore Drive.

Last year’s winner, Shane van Gisbergen, driving in his first NASCAR race, shot around Justin Haley here to take the lead late in the Cup Series race, putting him in position to win. Van Gisbergen, whose name is often shortened to just SVG, is one of the drivers to beat this year after his debut performance.

Denny Hamlin, who won the pole in last year’s Cup Series race, slid into the tire barrier here at the start of the second lap, allowing Tyler Reddick’s No. 45 Toyota to start pulling away from the field.

Best views: Harbor Suites, Lakefront Club, E. Field Reserved Grandstand, General Admission viewing area

Turn 2 of the NASCAR Chicago street race course under construction Tuesday.

Turn 2 of the NASCAR Chicago street race course under construction Tuesday.

Zubaer Khan/Sun-Times

Turn 3

DuSable Lake Shore Drive

This is the closest thing that the NASCAR’s Chicago street race course has to a “gentle” turn. Drivers were able to take this turn pretty quickly last year.

The main hazard is the next two tricky turns. At the end of last year’s race, Haley managed to briefly get around van Gisbergen again in this turn only for van Gisbergen to pass him in Turn 4.

Best views: Harbor Suites, General Admission+ viewing area with some limited views from the Lakefront Trail and the hill outside the Field Museum for non-ticket holders.

Turn 3 of the NASCAR Chicago street race course under construction Tuesday.

Turn 3 of the NASCAR Chicago street race course under construction Tuesday.

Zubaer Khan/Sun-Times

Turn 4

DuSable Lake Shore Drive and Roosevelt Road

The right-hander onto Roosevelt Road from DuSable Lake Shore Drive is tricky partially because of its sharpness but even more so because of the structure of the road.

Reddick, who qualified in second for last year’s Grant Park 220 and led eight laps at the start of the race, complained about the transition from highway to road. He’s also a favorite for this year’s race.

“You’re going from brand-new asphalt to just how rough and broken up that bridge [on Roosevelt] has gotten, and it really makes it stressful,” Reddick told reporters after qualifying. “Every single lap, you’re holding your breath going through not knowing if you’re going to make it or not.”

Best views: Limited views near the Field Museum

Turn 5 of the NASCAR Chicago street race course under construction Tuesday.

Turn 5 of the NASCAR Chicago street race course under construction Tuesday.

Zubaer Khan/Sun-Times

Turn 5

Roosevelt Road and Columbus Drive

Although this is another 90-degree turn, drivers found it easier to navigate last year than some of the other turns on the course. It’s wider, giving drivers more “runoff room” — space to make a mistake.

The turn also opens up to the longest straightaway on the course along Columbus. Getting this turn right will set drivers up for one of the best passing spots on the track.

Drivers seemed to struggle in last year’s slick conditions on the concrete of Columbus Drive. Aric Almirola got turned around here on the first lap during the Cup Series race.

Last year, Xfinity Series driver Austin Hill noticed a manhole cover coming out of Turn 5 that could pose problems. The manhole covers throughout the course were welded down, but Hill still was worried about navigating the turn.

“It has a dip that kind of goes down into the track,” he said. “So I think if you hit that, you could get the car kind of out of shape pretty easily out there.”

Best views: Limited views near Roosevelt and Columbus

Nearly 10,000 pounds each, these concrete barriers can stop a speeding stock car in its tracks.

Nearly 10,000 pounds each, these concrete barriers waiting to be installed on Columbus Drive can stop a speeding stock car in its tracks.

Zubaer Khan/Sun-Times

Turn 6

Balbo and Columbus drives

Drivers spent more time in this corner than any other on the track during last year’s Cup Series race because they kept getting stuck under the shock-absorbing tire barrier that separates it from Turn 1.

There was a crash in this corner on the first lap of the race involving three cars. Later on, Noah Gragson burned out the tires on his No. 42 Chevrolet trying to get it unstuck. He wound up crashing into the same corner four times during the race.

Reddick crashed in this corner near the end of the race, sending him from the top 5 to the back of the pack. Kyle Busch slammed his No. 8 Chevrolet hard into the barrier early in the race and needed a tow.

Part of the problem last year was the track conditions after heavy rains that had delayed the race. Although the track had dried some as speeding cars drove over it, Turn 6 remained damp. When drivers slid into the barrier, they struggled to get the traction they needed to get their cars out from under the tires.

It’s also a tight left-hander with little runoff after a long, fast straightaway. There’s not much runoff, and especially if the track is wet, drivers need to make sure they hit their brake marks to avoid the barrier.

Best views: General Admission viewing area

Turn 6 of the NASCAR Chicago street race course under construction Tuesday.

Turn 6 of the NASCAR Chicago street race course under construction Tuesday.

Zubaer Khan/Sun-Times

Turn 7

Balbo Drive and Michigan Avenue

Turn 7 poses a unique challenge for drivers. They must navigate both a hill as Balbo Drive dips to meet Michigan Avenue and a tight, unforgiving right turn.

But it didn’t see much action last year because drivers took it pretty cautiously.

Best views: Liquid Death Plaza Club, Turn 7 Patios

Turn 7 of the NASCAR Chicago street race course under construction Tuesday.

Turn 7 of the NASCAR Chicago street race course under construction Tuesday.

Zubaer Khan/Sun-Times

Turn 8

Michigan Avenue and Congress Plaza

This is the first in a series of three turns through Congress Plaza, making a street-race version of a road course narrow, a series of extra turns that aren’t necessary but create some extra action on the course.

Drivers exiting this turn face a small hill and another tight turn with limited visibility.

During qualifying last year, Chase Elliott lost control and slammed his No. 9 Chevrolet into the barrier wall here hard enough to move the nearly 10,000-pound blocks.

Ricky Stenhouse also came into the turn too hard and hit the wall during qualifying, requiring him to switch to a backup car for Sunday’s Cup Series race.

Best views: Turn 8 Reserved grandstand, Turn 9 Reserved grandstands

In this week’s “Polling Place,” we also asked for your thumbs-up or thumbs-down on NASCAR in Chicago with the second race weekend in the books.
The race created some new NASCAR fans. But some people also have problems with the traffic and other issues and wonder about whether it’s worth bringing back.
Two people who police say chained themselves to a fence around the race course on Sunday were arrested on suspicion of criminal trespass.
Jim Wales is a fan of NASCAR, but he’d like to see it directly invest in Grant Park. The community group leader pointed to Lollapalooza donating $500,000 to fix up the park’s tennis courts and add pickleball courts.
“Si estuviera aquí y viera su nombre en un auto de carreras en la Chicago Street Race, se quedaría absolutamente boquiabierto”, dijo Alex Maddox.
“It’s an incredible event,” Bowman said. “It’s been two chaotic races with the weather, but it’s been a super-fun event and really meaningful to be able to win.”
The northbound section of DuSable Lake Shore Drive is set to reopen Monday at 6 a.m., and the southbound section is on track to reopen Tuesday night, city officials say. The last of the road closures will be cleared July 18.
The start of the Grant Park 165 race was delayed by a downpour. Fans pulled on rain gear. ‘Us diehard NASCAR fans, we suffer through it,’ one fan said. Alex Bowman won the race.
Turnout to watch Keith Urban, the Chainsmokers and others was just a fraction of what Lollapalooza stars draw in Grant Park.
We got soaked again on Sunday, but at least we made a little more sense of things.
The defending Cup Series champion was sidelined after a crash in Stage 2.
The country star moved in and out of the crowd, playing feel-good songs in what he called ‘an alternate reality where everything is good.’

Turn 9

Congress Plaza and Ida B. Wells Drive

Turn 9 comes at the crest of the hill through Congress Plaza, another narrow turn that will require precision from drivers to avoid the wall. This stretch of track was one of my favorite spots to watch the race last year.

Cars get close to the concrete barriers here, and the nearby big screens give a good sense of what’s happening elsewhere on the track. From the top of the hill, you can get views of turns 8 and 10, too, as well as the Chicago skyline.

Best views: Turn 9 Reserved grandstands, Turn 8 Reserved grandstand, Congress Reserved grandstand

Turn 10

Congress Plaza and Michigan Avenue

This is the last of the turns in the Congress Plaza chicane. Although there’s more room to maneuver through Turn 9, the track narrows again in this tight right-hander.

Drivers mostly kept it together through this turn last year, the short straight on Michigan Avenue that follows it and Turn 11 presented much bigger problems.

Best views: Congress Reserved grandstand, Michigan Reserved grandstand

Turn 10 of the NASCAR Chicago street race course under construction Tuesday.

Turn 10 of the NASCAR Chicago street race course under construction Tuesday.

Zubaer Khan/Sun-Times

Turn 11

Michigan Avenue and Jackson Drive

Turn 11 saw one of the most memorable moments of last year’s race that shows how narrow this track really is.

William Byron went wide and missed the sharp right turn, getting caught against the tire barrier. With limited room to navigate, Corey LaJoie ran into Kevin Harvick, sending both cars sideways and almost completely blocking the track.

Much of the field wound up getting stuck behind the ensuing traffic jam as the drivers tried to get their cars pointed in the right direction.

The unforgiving turn into an uphill straightaway posed other problems throughout the race. Alex Bowman spun out in the corner earlier in the race after a bump from Denny Hamlin as they entered the turn.

Best views: Michigan Reserved grandstand

Turn 11 of the NASCAR Chicago street race course under construction Tuesday.

Turn 11 of the NASCAR Chicago street race course under construction Tuesday.

Zubaer Khan/Sun-Times

Turn 12

Jackson and Columbus drives

Just because this is the last turn on the track doesn’t make it the least interesting.

Drivers must navigate one more tricky right-hander under a pedestrian bridge before reaching the start/finish line. Late in the race, Austin Dillon tried to take the lead in this corner and instead went hard into the wall. He wound up finishing 36th.

To make things more difficult, it’s also the entrance to Pit Road, an intersection that snarled several drivers in last year’s Cup Series race as some drivers slow to pit while others try to accelerate onto the front stretch. Joey Logano tangled with F1 champion Jenson Button as Button was trying to get into Pit Road, causing him to spin out.

Last year, Hamlin told reporters that he thinks that corner could use a retooling.

“There’s huge [crash] barrels there,” Hamlin said. “With it being only a 40 mph corner, we probably don’t need those huge barrels. And you could probably take one of those concrete barriers off the entrance of Pit Road — because there are no pit stalls for the first three stalls anyway — and move those barrels back 20, 25 feet. It would allow us to go through the final corner a little bit faster so we’re not causing a huge stackup with the cars that are pitting and the ones that are not.”

Best views: Turn 12 Reserved grandstand, N. Frontstretch Reserved grandstand

Interactive map from NASCAR Chicago

2024 NASCAR Chicago street race

Schedule

Saturday
  • 9:00 a.m.: Xfinity Series practice and qualifying
  • 11:00 a.m.: House Music 40 Showcase
  • 11:30 a.m.: Cup Series practice and qualifying
  • 1:15 p.m.: Buddy Guy concert
  • 2:30 p.m.: The Loop 110
  • 5:00 p.m.: The Black Keys concert
  • 8:00 p.m.: The Chainsmokes concert
Sunday
  • 11:30 a.m.: Lauren Alaina concert
  • 1:00 p.m.: Keith Urban concert
  • 3:30 p.m.: Grant Park 165

More info

Latest updates

Newlywed singer wins over racing crowd with new singles, powerhouse vocals.
High decibels and flashy production values divert from the duo’s focus on manipulating machinery and stirring the audience.
A smart pit road gamble, keeping on rain tires while the leaders put on slick racing tires, put Bowman way out in front to win NASCAR’s second Cup Series street race in Chicago.
“Street tracks are different every year, no matter where you go,” Shane van Gisbergen said. “The burial location is always different, whether inside the curb or on top of it. The track always changes.”
“If he were here and he were to see his name on a race car at the Chicago Street Race, it would just absolutely blow his mind,” Alex Maddox said.
Chicago-style hot dogs, local barbecue and Garrett’s popcorn are on the menu at the festival grounds.
‘We’re just trying to get louder than those race cars,’ Dan Auerbach declared to a cheering crowd.
For 45 minutes, the 87-year-old blues guitarist ripped through solos, cracked jokes and flashed a bright smile throughout his Saturday afternoon set.
For nearly two hours, Festival Field grooved as attendees danced to classics sounds of the homegrown genre.
Last year’s race suffered from record-setting rainfall. But fans this year were graced with sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-70s, allowing them to enjoy live music and other entertainment that was rained out last year.
Practicing for his scheduled qualifying run before Saturday’s Xfinity Series Loop 110, Day totaled his ride when he crashed into Illinoisan Justin Allgaier’s stopped car.
“He’s just really good, and he doesn’t ever touch anybody to get by them,” said Kyle Larson, who finished third. “That’s rare to see, so it’s fun to race with a guy like that.’'

The Latest
They don’t take enough shots from long range, and the Liberty exploit them with the pick-and-roll.
“I think the hate for Trump is out of hand. It’s out of control. We have to settle down,” Illinois GOP National Committeeman Richard Porter said. Former President Barack Obama urged a pivot away from polarization.
“Although we don’t yet know exactly what happened, we should all be relieved that former President Trump wasn’t seriously hurt, and use this moment to recommit ourselves to civility and respect in our politics,” said former President Barack Obama.
One of the many parties celebrating 40 years of the genre, the Chosen Few Picnic & House Music Festival drew thousands to Jackson Park on Saturday.
More than 30 groups organize Downtown Day, offering free admission to several attractions — such as the Shedd Aquarium and the Art Institute — for young people who don’t often leave their neighborhoods to explore the city’s richness.