GRANT PARK — Grant Park has transformed into a NASCAR paradise complete with VIP grandstands, a giant ferris wheel, a TikTok content center and a winding course that offers scenic skyline views of Chicago.
The Chicago Street Race will be the first of its kind for the city and NASCAR. The 2.2-mile course includes 12 narrow turns along a winding mix of concrete, asphalt and elevation.
The action starts 10 a.m. Saturday with practice and qualifying. The Loop 121 Xfinity Series Race, a 55-lap contest, is scheduled for 4-6 p.m. Saturday.
Gates open at 9 a.m. and close after The Chainsmokers concert.
The 100-lap NASCAR Cup Series kicks off 4:30 p.m. Sunday and will air live on NBC.
Here’s what you need to know.
Major Downtown street closures caused by the race will make it difficult to get around.
Crews were still working Friday to finish laying barriers around the course as the final street closures on DuSable Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue’s northbound lanes went into effect overnight and Saturday morning.
Closures on DuSable Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue’s southbound lanes were already in effect, and the major thoroughfares will be closed for several days.
Vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and scooters won’t be able to use the street during the closures, but the Lakefront Trail will remain open.
Jenson Button, a former Formula 1 racing champion turned NASCAR racer, said the Chicago street course is a nine out of 10 in terms of difficulty.
Button, like the rest of the drivers, has not driven the course. Drivers have been practicing on state-of-the are race simulators and get their first crack at the course Saturday for 50 minutes each.
“From my experience in the simulator, it’s definitely tricky,” Button said. “There’s a lot going on for when you hit the brakes to get into the corner, and one little slip up and you’re in the woods. So I think, mentally, it’s a very challenging race for us.”
The course starts and ends along Columbus Drive near Buckingham Fountain. Drivers will take then two quick turns down Balbo Drive and onto DuSable Lake Shore Drive. Racers will zoom down DuSable, curl around Roosevelt Road, wind back up Columbus and Balbo, weave up Michigan Avenue and Congress Plaza Drive, and speed down Jackson Drive before starting the loop again.
The fastest part of the course is anticipated along DuSable between turns two and three, while the most difficult portion of the track is from turn three to turn four along DuSable to Roosevelt.
“That, for me, is going to be the trickiest corner to get right,” Button said.
The race is anticipated to attract 50,000 visitors a day, with tickets ranging from $269 for general admission to over $3,000 for the President’s Padlock Club near the start line, considered the most ” luxurious race weekend experience,” officials said. You can purchase tickets here.
NASCAR did not answer questions about how many tickets have been sold, but spokespeople told the Tribune “nine sections of reserved seats were sold out as of Friday.” There are 20,000 reserved seats and 30,000 general admission tickets for the two-day event, the Tribune reported.
More than 80 percent of ticketholders are attending a NASCAR race for the first time, a spokesperson said.
“One of our main goals in bringing this race to Chicago was to introduce NASCAR to a new and expanding fanbase,” the spokesperson said.
How To Watch For Free
Pedestrians will be able to view parts of the course from the Lakefront Trail, which remains open, according to the Sun-Times.
Large screens will also be set up in NASCAR’s village in Butler Field, and Sunday’s race will air live on NBC.
Scattered showers and thunderstorms are expected after 4 p.m. in Chicago, according to the National Weather Service. It will be mostly cloudy with a high near 85.
Showers are likely and thunderstorms are possible after 10 p.m., too.
The air quality Saturday is 86, or moderate, according to IQ Air.
Races will be postponed if lightning is present near the tracks. Find out more about NASCAR’s weather policy here.
Contractor Dies, Michigan Avenue Bookstore Closes
The race is estimated to generate $113 million in economic benefits and $3.2 million in tax revenue to Chicago, NASCAR officials have said, but it has been controversial to local residents who have worried the race will be too noisy and disruptive to the neighborhood.
A 53-year-old contractor died Friday morning after suffering an injury at the racing site in the 500 block of South Columbus Drive, police said. It wasn’t immediately clear how the man was hurt or whether it was connected to setup for the race.
The area where the incident occurred, near Buckingham Fountain, will be set up as a “fan plaza” for NASCAR ticket-holders this weekend.
A popular South Loop bookstore on Michigan Avenue has also decided to temporarily close during NASCAR weekend for safety reasons.
Fans will have to shell out to enjoy a beverage inside the grounds.
Six-packs of Busch Light and Michelob Ultra are going for $63.
A six pack of Goose Island 312 will sell for $69, as will a six pack of Bud Light seltzers (black cherry or mango). A six pack of Jack Daniel’s and Coca Cola’s will run fans $72, the same price as a sixer of wine spritzers and canned cocktails, according to the menus posted at beverage tens within the NASCAR ticketed race area.
Folks took to social media to criticize the pricing model. With single cans of Busch Light going for $10.50, there would be no discount to buying a six pack (which would otherwise cost around $8 at Binny’s).
Check out a preview of the course:
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