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NASCAR Racing Through Chicago Streets? City Endorses Downtown Street Course, Report Says

NASCAR would create a temporary course on Downtown streets, with the first race held in 2023.

Millennium Park, Grant Park, DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Museum Campus and the South Loop are seen from The Residences at The St. Regis Chicago on April 11, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — The city has agreed to let NASCAR hold a race through Chicago’s streets, according to a new report.

The city has not yet come to an official agreement with NASCAR for the race, but it has endorsed the plan and a partnership is expected to be announced soon, according to The Athletic’s Jordan Bianchi.

The agreement is expected to outline a three-year partnership where NASCAR would create a temporary course on Downtown streets, with the first race held in 2023, according to The Athletic.

The Athletic obtained a letter from Erin Harkey, commissioner of the city’s special events agency, endorsing the potential event.

“I am thrilled about the potential opportunity to host the NASCAR Street Course events here in Chicago,” Harkey wrote in the letter, according to The Athletic. The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events “is dedicated to enriching Chicago’s artistic vitality and cultural vibrancy, and our strong partnership with the Chicago Sports Commission ensures that NASCAR fans would be treated to a diverse and unforgettable experience.”

The deal could still fall through, but an announcement is expected this month, according to The Athletic.

It’s not known where the race course would be set up, but it would be temporary, with one race expected per year as part of the three-year deal. A virtual NASCAR race in Chicago has been done near Buckingham Fountain.

Word of the potential race has been in the air for weeks — and the city’s bicycle advocates have criticized the proposal.

“Quick question … ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND, @LORILIGHTFOOT?” bicycle group Bike Lane Uprising tweeted in June about the proposal.

Advocates have said they’d protest a race and would prefer the city focus on making streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists — especially since traffic-related deaths and injuries are at their highest point in years.

Calls to make the roads safer have taken on renewed urgency in recent weeks, as drivers killed a number of pedestrians and bicyclists — including two toddlers, an 11-year-old and a 15-year-old — in June in Chicago.

On Wednesday, Lightfoot was at a Chicago Department of Transportation news conference when she urged drivers to take note of the recent losses and go slower on the roads.

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