Everything you need to know about NASCAR weekend in Chicago
Start your planning, Chicago. The much-anticipated NASCAR Street Race is nearly here and the weekend promises to bring fast cars and big-name concerts to downtown, along with large crowds and closed streets.
“There will be congestion,” Christopher Pettineo, of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, said at a recent press conference announcing road closures for the event.
Whether you’re among the 50,000 attendees expected to attend each day or want to avoid it entirely, here’s what you need to know about NASCAR weekend in Chicago.
When is this happening? Gates open at 9 a.m. on both Saturday, July 1, and Sunday, July 2.
Saturday’s Xfinity Series race featuring “rising stars of NASCAR” will get underway at 4 p.m. and Sunday’s main event, the NASCAR Cup Series race dubbed the “Grant Park 220,” will begin at 4:30 p.m. Festivities are expected to last until 10 p.m. both days.
Where exactly is this going to be? Grant Park, at 337 E. Randolph Street, is the epicenter. The area around Buckingham Fountain will become the fan plaza. The 12-turn, 2.2-mile street circuit course will twist and turn through and around the park. The course will be on portions of Columbus Drive, Jackson Boulevard, Michigan Avenue, Roosevelt Road, Balbo Drive and DuSable Lake Shore Drive.
The Chicago Department of Transportation said at a recent press conference that the streets have been repaired and “the roadway is ready to host the event.” During the race weekend, the course will be fully enclosed using concrete blocks with a fence on top.
What else is happening on site? In addition to the races, there’s also a festival happening all weekend, including some big-name performers. On Saturday, the Black Crowes are slated to perform at 2:30 p.m. and the Chainsmokers will take the stage at 7 p.m. On Sunday, Charley Crockett and Miranda Lambert are on deck for pre-race shows beginning at noon.
How do I attend the race or concerts? Tickets are available online. All tickets are for both days and range in price from $269 for general admission to $3,015 for the President’s Paddock Club, which is billed as the “most luxurious race weekend experience.” While officials say the event is family friendly, there is no discount for youth tickets.
If you don’t have a ticket, officials say the best way to watch the race is on TV (Sunday’s race will be broadcasted on NBC). A NASCAR representative said at a recent press conference that there will be no streetside view of the race.
If you want to be a part of the scene without shelling out money for a ticket, there will also be a free NASCAR Village both days at nearby Butler Field, featuring pace cars, merchandise and concessions. The area will close each day at race time.
What’s the best way to get there? And where can I park? Organizers are encouraging people to take public transportation and released this list of the nearest CTA stops:
- Brown, Purple, Green, Pink and Orange lines exit at Washington/Wabash or Adams/Wabash
- Blue and Red lines exit and Jackson or Monroe
Plus, here are the closest Metra stations:
- Metra Millennium Station
- Metra Ogilvie Station
If you take a rideshare downtown, pickup and drop off will be west of State Street from Roosevelt Road to Randolph Street. For those who decide to drive, there is no parking at Grant Park, but parking garages surrounding Michigan Avenue will be accessible.
What can I bring with me? Guests are restricted to one clear bag that’s no larger than 12” x 12” x 6”. It must be a small purse, tote or drawstring bag — no backpacks allowed. Small purses that are 6” x 6” or smaller do not need to be clear. An empty water bottle, binoculars, blankets, collapsible chairs (not in a bag), cameras, seat cushions and non-aerosol sunscreen are all allowed. But tripods, selfie sticks, outside food or alcohol, coolers and large flags are prohibited.
What roads are going to be closed for the event? Roadways surrounding the course, like Ida B. Wells Drive from Michigan Avenue to Columbus Drive, began closing on June 10. The most significant closures will start on Sunday, June 25. See the day-by-day breakdown here.
Here is the complete list of road closures on July 1-2, according to NASCAR:
- Southbound DuSable Lake Shore Drive from Randolph Street to McFetridge Drive
- Northbound DuSable Lake Shore Drive from McFetridge Drive to Randolph Street
- Northbound Michigan Avenue from Roosevelt Road to Jackson Drive
- Southbound Michigan Avenue from Jackson Drive to Balbo Drive
- Monroe Avenue from Columbus Drive to Lake Shore Drive
- Columbus Drive from Roosevelt Road to Monroe Drive
- Roosevelt Road from DuSable Lake Shore Drive to Columbus Drive
- Jackson Drive from Michigan Avenue to DuSable Lake Shore Drive
- Balbo Drive from Michigan Avenue to DuSable Lake Shore Drive
- Ida B. Wells Drive from Michigan Avenue to Columbus Drive
- Congress Circle
Local access only:
- Southbound Michigan Avenue from 8th Street to Roosevelt Road
- Northbound Michigan Avenue from Adams Street to Monroe Street
- Harrison Avenue from Wabash Avenue to Michigan Avenue
- Jackson Drive from Wabash Avenue to Michigan Avenue
- Balbo Drive from Wabash Avenue to Michigan Avenue
- Ida B. Wells Drive from Wabash Avenue to Michigan Avenue
- Van Buren Street from Wabash Avenue to Michigan Avenue
- Southbound DuSable Lake Shore Drive from Randolph Street to Monroe Street
- Monroe St from Michigan Ave to Columbus Drive
Drivers will also need to merge lanes along an 8-mile stretch of DuSable Lake Shore Drive between North Avenue and 47th Street.
Wait, so where can I go downtown? All residences and businesses will remain accessible throughout race weekend. The entirety of the Lakefront Trail will remain open to bikers and walkers throughout the weekend. Millennium Park, Maggie Daley Park and the Museum Campus will also be open and accessible. The Shedd Aquarium announced in May it will close during race weekend and the Field Museum will have shortened hours.
Is this going to be loud? After concerns from residents, NASCAR made some tweaks to its plans, including limiting its noisy hours. The organization says there will be no noise from race cars or concerts before 10 a.m. or after 10 p.m.
While cars are expected to exceed speeds of 100 mph on the course’s straightaways, the races will also use mufflers, which NASCAR says lowered noise by as much as 10 decibels at a race in Los Angeles earlier this year. There will be a maximum of 40 cars competing on the course at any given time.
Why is this event happening downtown? Former Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced last summer that she had struck a deal to bring NASCAR’s first-ever street course race to downtown Chicago. The city and NASCAR have touted the event as an economic opportunity, but reports predict Lollapalooza will generate three times as much economic activity in less time.
What happens after it’s all over? Some roadways will start to reopen the day after the event, on July 3, but other portions will remain closed through July 14. According to its website, NASCAR will be responsible for any repairs needed as a result of the race weekend “in order to return the park space back to its pre-event condition.”
Courtney Kueppers is a digital producer/reporter at WBEZ.