CONCORD, N.C. – On Tuesday, NASCAR and the City of Chicago jointly announced plans for the NASCAR Cup Series to run the first street course race in its history through the Windy City.
Downtown Chicago will serve as the host of the temporary street course. The event will be held on July 2, 2023, and televised on NBC. It will be part of a joint weekend with an IMSA-sanctioned race taking place on July 1.
The street race will run against the backdrop of Chicago and Midwestern landmarks like Grant Park and Lake Michigan. Lake Shore Drive, Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive will be transformed into a 12-turn, 2.2-mile course.
The start/finish line and pit road will be located along South Columbus Drive directly in front of Buckingham Fountain. The course will also be near the northern edge of Solider Field, which is the site of the only other Cup Series race to take place in downtown Chicago in 1956. The weekend will also feature music and entertainment options.
"This is the ideal setting for the first-ever NASCAR Cup Series street race," said Ben Kennedy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing development and strategy. "The NASCAR Cup Series Next Gen cars and the IMSA machines will race along the shores of Lake Michigan in downtown Chicago, marking a truly historic moment for our sport."
During a media availability following the announcement, Kennedy said that there is a three-year deal for the Chicago street course.
When asked about the possibility of a street course on the schedule earlier this month, Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron was intrigued by the prospect.
"I think it’s a cool idea," Byron said. "The atmosphere should be great and it should be exciting."
Teammate and 2020 Cup champion Chase Elliott also likes the idea of unique event and acknowledged that it will be a challenge for teams coming to a new venue.
"It's nice to go somewhere different," Elliott said. "It is challenging from a driver’s standpoint and from a team’s standpoint to tackle a new place, especially one you’ve never been. It’s a good opportunity to have an event inside of a big city and introduce people to our sport."
The announcement adds another piece of the puzzle to the 2023 Cup Series schedule. In addition to the race through Chicago, three other dates are currently known with the full schedule announcement to come at a later date.
The Clash will be held Feb. 5 on FOX and take place at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the second straight year. The 2023 DAYTONA 500 will officially open the season two weeks later on Feb. 19. Phoenix Raceway will host the 2023 Championship Weekend from Nov. 3-5. Kennedy acknowledged during questions from reporters that Road America will not be on the 2023 schedule.
Hendrick Motorsports has three victories in the state of Illinois. All of them came at Chicagoland Speedway with Jeff Gordon winning in 2006, Mark Martin in 2009 and Alex Bowman in 2019. Bowman won the most recent race held at the 1.5-mile track.