Jul 10, 2023 - Business

Chicago and NASCAR to sort out street race's fate

Cars race along Grant Park at sunset on July 2 during NASCAR’s Grant Park 220, as seen from the NEMA Chicago building. Photo: Jon Durr/USA Today Sports via Reuters

The city is in the homestretch after weeks of downtown disruptions for the inaugural NASCAR Chicago Street Race.

Driving the news: The last remaining closed streets, Ida B. Wells Drive and Jackson Boulevard, are set to reopen Monday.

  • Now, NASCAR and Mayor Brandon Johnson will assess what should be done differently next year — or whether it will even happen next year.

Why it matters: The event, with its 2.2-mile race track around Grant Park, attracted tons of visitors to Chicago, as well as drawing complaints about street closings and the extra demand placed on police during a historically violent weekend.

Yes, but: It was the most-watched NASCAR race since 2017, NBC reports, and NASCAR said most ticket buyers were experiencing NASCAR for the first time.

Catch up fast: Officials expected 100,000 people and a multimillion-dollar revenue boom, but lightning and flash floods shortened races and canceled concerts.

  • NASCAR's contract with the Chicago Park District, signed by Johnson's predecessor Lori Lightfoot, runs through 2025. The two sides can terminate the agreement with at least 180 days' notice prior to the event without compensation or damages.
  • "Like everything I inherited — I'm a teacher — I will assess and grade it," Johnson said at a press conference last week.
  • NASCAR plans to fulfill terms of the contract and expects discussions with the city to begin soon, a NASCAR spokesperson tells Axios.

By the numbers: If it returns, NASCAR will pay the Park District a $550,000 permit fee, up from $500,000 this year.

  • If NASCAR pulls out less than 180 days before the race, it will have to pay the Park District $250,000.

What they're saying: "Despite the fact that race week started with Chicago having the worst air quality in the world and finished with rains that broke a 40-year record, NASCAR is proud to have met its big-picture measures of success," a spokesperson said in a statement.

  • Lightfoot attended Saturday and called it a "multi-day love letter to Chicago."

What we're watching: The Chicago Loop Alliance, the de facto chamber of commerce for Loop businesses, told Axios its members haven't disclosed how much money they made (or lost) from the event but that pedestrian traffic, especially along Michigan Avenue, was up.


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