A historic weekend awaits next weekend in downtown Chicago as NASCAR prepares to go street racing for the first time ever. The Grant Park 220 has been building momentum for several months, and now it sits as the next event on the 2023 schedule. The two-day event kicks off with practice on Saturday afternoon, ahead of qualifying for the race. The 100-lap race on Sunday will crown a special driver as the inaugural Chicago street race winner.
Former champions and Le Mans teammates Jenson Button and Jimmie Johnson will be competing in the event next weekend. Button made his Cup debut at Circuit of The Americas earlier this year. The 2009 Formula One World champ will make one more Cup start this season on the Indianapolis Road Course in August. Johnson will be in a third Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet, as the team owner gets back behind the wheel. Andy Lally (Rick Ware Racing) and Austin Hill (Beard Motorsports) will also be competing in the event next weekend.
The race is wide open, in terms of expectations. None of the drivers have been on the track and everyone will be learning at the same time. It may take some time for drivers to get comfortable, but expect the usual suspects to find their way to the top of the leader board. That includes names like Chase Elliott, Tyler Reddick, AJ Allmendinger, and Kyle Larson among others.
Crew chiefs, engineers, and spotters will also be challenged by this new course. With no data or tracks that are comparable, it will be a blank sheet for everyone going into Saturday. Qualifying will be crucial for race day, but even then, caution flags are sure to fly early and often. Road courses may be somewhat safer with run-off areas, but street courses with concrete barriers tend to be a little less forgiving.
All of the hype and the buzz surrounding this event will deliver in terms of viewership, and ticket sales have been going very well. If Mother Nature provides good weather and the concerts create the festival-type atmosphere, the rest should take care of itself. The racing may or may not deliver the goods, but this is a shot that NASCAR felt compelled to take, and that time has finally come.
Race weekend schedule (Eastern Standard Time)
Saturday July 1
1:30 pm - Practice
2:30 pm - Qualifying
Sunday July 2
5:30 pm - Race