NASCAR Cup drivers react to a possible Chicago street race

HAMPTON, GA – Kurt Busch has a unique connection to the short past and surprising future of NASCAR street racing.

According to a report in The Athletic, there is an imminent announcement of the addition of the Cup Series for downtown Chicago to its schedule for 2023. It would be a significant development for NASCAR, which has lacked a presence in the nation’s third-largest television market since the 2019 race at Chicagoland Speedway and will try to add a major metropolitan city For the second year in a row (after the first appearance of a clash at the Coliseum Short Course last January).

But Chicago street racing will have more weight with Bush, whose parents grew up in the northwest suburbs of Wendy’s while both attended Arlington Heights High School. Despite growing up in Las Vegas, Bush is a lifelong fan of the Cubs and still has many friends and family in Illinois.

Additionally, there is the question that his #45 car in 23XI Racing is owned by Michael Jordan, an NBA legend who won six championships with the Chicago Bulls.

“It would be great with people who want to come and watch us and hang out with us,” Bush said. “It’s going to be a great weekend of hospitality at 23XI. I think there is a lot of excitement across the board.

“The concept is just as incredible as the Colosseum. If I can do things to help NASCAR with the track deck, some SAFER bulkheads and runoff areas, I’d be raising my hand in a big way with the Drivers Council to try and help. The excitement, the different value, the different feel. It would be off the charts. I think that’s It’s important for our sport on the weekends to do that.”

The twist is that Bush has done it before. The two-time 2004 Cup Series champion started the NASCAR Southwest Tour race that ran the streets of Los Angeles around the Colosseum in 1998-99.

“It was a blast,” Bush said. “The parking area had sealant on it, and then we crossed that drain channel into Figueroa, and that’s normal asphalt. Then we jumped onto the runway and ran around it, and it had concrete like Dover layers and Nashville style. So he had it all.”

“That’s what I would expect in a street race you’ll have different surfaces, different bumps that hopefully won’t bother the cars too much. But just the general feeling of getting people in there and the location, as it would be breathtaking, would be an amazing sight to see and an incredible energy to be a part of.”

News of the potential Chicago race sparked a furore from drivers – some worried about its potential impact on Road America – at Atlanta Motor Speedway last weekend.

Chase Elliott, who had been campaigning to bring NASCAR to the Nashville Fairgrounds short track, in part because of its proximity to the big city, applied the same logic to races on the streets of Chicago.

“We need to make sure it’s a good event,” he said. “The drivers may not like the track and it may not be perfect for us. But when you are in the middle of town and you have the ability to attract that kind of audience to your race, it is best to make sure it is well laid out. Done to a very high standard, people have a good place to watch the race From it, and the things to do and make it happen. That’s how it should be. And I think as long as it’s like that and done well, it’s going to be successful whether the drivers like the track or not.”

But like Busch and Kevin Harvick, who also raced on the streets of Los Angeles, some drivers have the insight to offer through their street training experiences (albeit at other chains).

Austin Sendrick counts the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, among the favorite designs he’s been involved with in sports cars and the USF2000 (IndyCar’s single-seat open cockpit ladder series).

“I love street track racing; it’s fun to bring the party to the people,” said the Penske team driver. “I feel it’s a similar effect to an LA Coliseum event. So I think it would be really nice to add. I think we have the cars, and the fan base that would host an event like this.”

Michael McDowell, who has taken part in street training sessions around the world in sports cars and open wheels (including the Champ Car’s debut in 2005 at Australia’s famous Surfers Paradise), said the next-generation car should fit better with Street courses with enhanced braking and turning capability.

“In our previous generation of cars, it would just be difficult (with) the turning radius to even do a Colosseum let alone a street race,” McDowell said. “But with a next-gen car, this car is able to put on a good show. So I think it’s going to be fun. The bodies are a little bit stiffer, and the tire clearance is better, which is good. Because if you’re brushing concrete walls, you don’t want to cut a frame and hatch.

Perhaps the most important thing is to get enough training. Just because these are really tough racetracks on their own, just having visual cues and brake signs and all that would really matter. Just minimizing errors, I think practice can do. …with street courses being very tight in general, you have to have a proper long distance and a good braking zone to be able to make moves and pass traffic.”

Cindric said the biggest challenges for NASCAR will be ensuring a wide pit area to accommodate 40 cars, as well as having adequate restart/runoff areas and reducing corner radius and sharp corners. The Athletic report does not contain details of the proposed Chicago scheme, but it is expected to build on the iRacing course revealed for the 2021 Wreck Festival with the participation of the Cup drivers.

“Hopefully things will go better than what the iRacing deal did because that was an absolute disaster,” Alex Bowman said.

Hendrik Motorsports teammate William Byron said he would be “extremely skeptical” about the proposed Chicago race if it was based on an iRacing track. “I drove it on iRacing and iRacing does a great job with the tracks,” Byron said. “If it’s anything like that, it’s too narrow. So we’re going to have some work to do to create a passing lane. I don’t think it’s just about making the lane too wide, so there’s room for error, but there should be a passing lane. We should be able to get someone under the brakes and not just hit a wall.”

Said Kyle Busch: “Street races are usually very tight and very tight at 90-degree angles. I would hate to see one of us miss a corner, go to the tire block, and then block the track.”

After watching the inaugural IndyCar race through the streets of downtown Nashville, Tennessee, Ryan Blaney said street track showing should be a high priority for NASCAR.

“I think it’s great that they want to do something different and go to a good market,” said the Penske driver. “Your circuit has to be wide enough to make it run. It can’t be 15 or 20 feet wide. It has to be wide enough to get to where you can actually race. And if there’s debris, you don’t pile into it. So that’s my only concern being That you have to make it wide enough. Finding streets you can do that is difficult.”

NASCAR may already have a good test case with the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, whose tight corners have been compared to a street track.

“The idea of ​​a street track was really exciting,” said Tyler Riddick. “I really enjoyed racing the Roval because of some of the corners out there. I made a mistake in Turn 1, there’s a hurdle. I got over it a little bit in (Turn) 2, and there’s another hurdle. I think thinking about that can be really exciting.

“Looks like Chicago could work, so I’m excited about it. I just hope we don’t lose a track that’s good for us as well.”

This is a nod to Road America, as Reddick became a first-time winner in the Cup Series. Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, is seen as the most likely candidate to lose the race with the addition of Chicago (which will likely go into the race itself on July 4th).

“I’m excited that there is the potential for street racing, but I’m not excited that it will replace Road America,” McDowell said. “Just because Road America is probably one of the coolest places we go, huge fan following, great place. I can think of five or six (tracks) I’d trade other than Road America, but they didn’t ask me for my opinion.”

Cindric hopes NASCAR will keep Road America (which it considers the best of the six road courses on the Cup schedule) while also adding Chicago Street racing.

“There’s a short track to follow in[Wisconsin]and I don’t think the Chicago area necessarily makes up for that,” Cendrick said. “We’ve raced in Chicagoland, that’s pretty close, but I don’t think it’s close enough. We have a lot of racing fans who really enjoy (Road America), and I’ve had a lot of people watching me racing there for many years at Xfinity, talking About how they’re not looking forward to hearing (Chicago replaces Road America). I’m optimistic that won’t happen.”

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