By all accounts, and by all the post-race talking points in the paddock and on television, the Grant Park 220 NASCAR Cup race held on the streets of Chicago over the July 1-2 weekend was an unqualified success.
As for the downtown residents of Chicago, not so much. Many would just as soon see the 2023 event be a one-and-done affair.
According to the results of an unscientific poll conducted through the website of Chicago alderman Bill Conway, and posted to the Chicago Sun-Times website, about half of people responding would prefer the race not return to the streets of Chicago.
Alderman Brendan Reilly, whose ward includes downtown near the the circuit in and around Michigan Ave., also polled visitors to his website and found that 58% of 662 responses said that traffic closures negatively impacted their travels, and 54% said they would not support future NASCAR races downtown. Another 37% supported a NASCAR return, while 7% checked in as indifferent.
Only 39% of those responding to Reilly’s poll said that they were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with NASCAR’s outreach in the community.
It should be noted that the online poll was open to anyone to participate, not just those directly affected by the race or even living downtown.
The 2024 NASCAR race in Chicago marked the first year of a three-year deal. That deal, according to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times, includes a two-year option, meaning that the city could pull out of the deal for the July 6-7, 2024, race weekend with as little as six months notice.
The economic impact on Chicago is still being studied. The Chicago Sports Commission at Choose Chicago has commissioned the Sports Industry Research Center at Temple University to analyze the cost of the event versus its return for the Windy City.
Jim Wales, president of South Loop Neighbors and vice president of the Grant Park Advisory Council, has heard mixed reactions resulting from the race.
“Some people were in favor of never hosting the race again, while some were pleasantly surprised by the race,” Wales was quoted by the Sun-Times. “Nationally, it did portray Chicago in a bright light. The benefits of that are difficult to measure, but it certainly was a plus.
“The city really has to focus on expediting the setup and takedown of the track. There also has to be communication between the city officials, park officials and the people who use Grant Park as their neighborhood park. We have to engage the citizens instead of just saying this is just what’s going to happen.”
Mike Pryson covered auto racing for the Jackson (Mich.) Citizen Patriot and MLive Media Group from 1991 until joining Autoweek in 2011. He won several Michigan Associated Press and national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for auto racing coverage and was named the 2000 Michigan Auto Racing Fan Club’s Michigan Motorsports Writer of the Year. A Michigan native, Mike spent three years after college working in southwest Florida before realizing that the land of Disney and endless summer was no match for the challenge of freezing rain, potholes and long, cold winters in the Motor City.