For the first time in history, the NASCAR Cup Series came to Chicago for the first ever street race contested in the Cup Series. The race, called the Grant Park 220, passed through Grant Park and took place on the infamous streets of Lake Shore Drive, Michigan Avenue, and Columbus Drive.
The 12 turn, 2.2 mile course passed through and oversaw various spectacles of the city, with the start/finish line and pit located along South Columbus Drive, right in front of the historic Buckingham Fountain.
How did Chicago prepare for the Grant Park 220?
The city of Chicago did some serious preparation for the historic race. Throughout June, Columbus Drive was frequently closed to be repaved, as it served as the pit road for the race. On various days throughout June, streets such as Balbo, Michigan Ave, and Jackson were closed for the construction of the course and supporting structures around it. Last week, most of the roads around the track were closed completely for the finishing touches.
The emergency crews for on-track work came from Michigan, Milwaukee, Road America, Iowa and other Midwest tracks. The Chicago Fire Department also lended a hand in ensuring the safety of the race by working with racing operations.
The course passed through Grant Park and approached the northern end of Soldier Field, which was the site of the only other Cup Series race to take place in downtown Chicago in 1956. To make the race even more special, Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields served as the grand marshall for Sunday’s race. He gave the command for the drivers to start their engines after the race was delayed by the flooding of the downtown area.
Grant Park 220 was anything but boring. As a result of the late start time, cloudy conditions, and daylight running out, NASCAR decided that the drivers would complete just 75 of the 100 laps.
Danny Hamlin won the pole position for the Grant Park 220, granting him the most favorable position for the race. Pole position is the best place for a car to start the race in, as it is situated on the inside of the front row. He claimed the position by having the fastest time in the second round of qualifying.
Although shorter than anticipated, the race was nonetheless exciting. Shane Van Gisbergen, a native of New Zealand, came out the victor. On Lap 68, Van Gisbergen climbed up to second place behind Justin Haley before Martin Truex Jr. went into the tire barrier.
Van Gisbergen passed Haley to take the lead on Lap 71. Bubba Wallace slid and hit Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on Lap 74, forcing NASCAR Overtime. Van Gisbergen was still in first, with Haley and Elliott behind him.
Van Gisbergen drove away on the final lap, claiming the victory. His No. 1 Chevrolet had been one of the fastest cars throughout the weekend. Though new to the Cup Series, he’s a three-time Australian Supercars champion.
Will NASCAR return to Chicago next year?
Despite some unforeseen obstacles and challenges, the inaugural street race has already fueled excitement about NASCAR returning to the Windy City in 2024. There is already a page built allowing fans to allow fans to join the waitlist for next year’s event. Fans have the option to pay a deposit for priority access to official ticket and experience packages for 2024.
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