Howdy everyone, apologies for my NASCAR absence last week as I had some personal stuff come up. We’re back this week as NASCAR finds itself on the precipice of history. I could lie and tell you that I know how the Grant Park 220 is going to play out but truthfully, I’m as clueless as anyone. For the first time in NASCAR Cup Series history, the series’ best will take on a street circuit.
If you had asked me before the announcement if NASCAR would ever run a street circuit in Chicago, I would have given you an emphatic no. NASCAR isn’t known for making right turns and when they do, they take place on dedicated road courses. However, I am incredibly excited about the possibilities this weekend. We’ll kick things off with the reason why this is happening.
It is no secret to any business that growth is the key to staying alive. To stagnate is to die. With this in mind, NASCAR decided that bringing the series to one of the largest cities and cultural hubs of the United States might have a positive impact on the sport.
As a NASCAR fan, I am absolutely thrilled to see the amount of fanfare and hype going into this race. It feels like an extraordinary occurrence with events like Bubba’s Block Party highlighted above.
Additionally, the race includes a festival with several musical artists including the Chainsmokers, the Black Crowes, and more. The festival only serves to elevate the race, making it feel larger than life. With Lake Michigan as the backdrop, it is sure to be spectacular.
With this being a street circuit, it should come as no surprise to see some drivers come from outside the world of NASCAR. Former F1 champ, Jensen Button, returns to the series after making his first start earlier this year at Circuit of the Americas. Road course specialist Andy Lally will also be running in a Rick Ware Racing car in the streets of Chicago piloting the #51. Finally, the Project 91 entry piloted by Shane van Gisbergen has me extremely intrigued. The New Zealand native, one of the most successful Supercars Championship drivers of all time, figures to be a big factor in Sunday’s race.
As for the race itself, I’m not setting my expectations too high. Historically, the NASCAR circuit features mostly ovals. Dedicated road courses that dot the NASCAR schedules also have unique characteristics that separate them from street circuits. The narrow and bumpy streets may limit passing opportunities making for a negative racing experience. However, because of the novelty of the circuit, I am cautiously optimistic.
As for my pick on Sunday, Kaulig Racing’s AJ Allmendinger possesses some street circuit experience. I’d expect him to be near the front at the Grant Park 220 along with some of the better road course drivers in the series like Tyler Reddick and Chase Elliott.
Check out the weekend schedule below so that you don’t miss any on-track action from this weekend in Chicago!
NASCAR Xfinity Qualifying – 11:00 a.m. CT on USA Network
NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying – 1:30 p.m. CT on USA Network
The Loop 121 (NASCAR Xfinity Series) – 4:00 p.m. CT on USA Network
Grant Park 220 (NASCAR Cup Series) – 4:30 p.m. CT on NBC