A first in the 75-year history of NASCAR: race cars zooming through one of the country's busiest downtowns. But as with any first-time event, there's concern and controversy.
In interviews, Chicago's downtown residents complained to Scripps News about the traffic and street closures the event will bring. Some even said they would stay out of town for the weekend to avoid the cars' noise. Others were more upbeat, arguing that "to have such an event I think is spectacular for Chicago."
For Kyle Lucas, co-founder of Better Streets Chicago, the street race, which goes through an intersection where a cyclist was killed last year, sets a dangerous example at a time when traffic deaths are on the rise.
"It sends the wrong message to drivers. But it also highlights just how dangerous our roads are on a daily basis," Lucas said.
Chicago Street Course President Julie Giese says her team spent months speaking to residents and city leaders to ensure the event is a success.
"We anticipate over $113 million in economic impact to the city of Chicago," Giese said.
She says all the race cars will use mufflers to lower noise levels — and large fences and concrete barriers will protect spectators.
Tickets start at $269 and include access to concerts. Giese says 70% of buyers are new to NASCAR's database — a stat that reflects the organization's goal of expanding their fan base.
"For us, it's continuing to be creative and, honestly, bold about where we want to race," Giese said.
As for the drivers, they have been training for the one-of-a-kind race on a video simulator.
Still, with 12 right and left turns and narrow city streets, the race is going to be quite different from NASCAR's typical oval-shaped courses. Some drivers, including Bubba Wallace, told the Chicago Sun-Times they were skeptical.
Either way, the street spectacle is likely here to stay. Chicago and NASCAR have signed a three-year deal — with options to extend the race beyond that time frame.
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