Article by Josie Stahler
Photos By Erik Anderson
This past weekend marked the inaugural Chicago NASCAR Street Race, kicking off 4th of July celebrations in the city with the sound of roaring engines. It was an exciting two days for fans and Chicago residents alike as NASCAR transformed the scenic streets into a race track for the ages.
The initial plans for the event included two races, The NASCAR Xfinity Series and the NASCAR Cup Series. The Xfinity series planned to run 55 laps around the track, and the Cup Series 100. Alongside the races there were a series of activities on the grounds including musical acts, a ferris wheel and interactive exhibits.
Of course not everything can go off without a hitch. This weekend brought record rainfalls and flash flooding to the city, leading to delays and cancellations of events throughout the weekend. Musical acts including Charley Crockett, Miranda Lambert, The Black Crowes and The Chainsmokers were canceled due to the extreme weather conditions. Despite this, fans continued to persist in hopes of catching a race up close.
On Saturday, the Xfinity Series was just short of its halfway mark when the race was stopped due to threats of lightning in the area. Fans were evacuated from the grounds and the race was slated to resume the next morning. Due to continuous rains on Sunday NASCAR called the race, declaring Cole Custer the winner. “With standing water and flooding a significant issue at the racetrack and throughout the city, there was no option to return to racing prior to shifting to NASCAR Cup Series race operations”.
It seemed there was concern as to whether or not the show would go on, but by a stroke of luck the rain lightened its force around five o’clock on Sunday. The Cup Series race was set to start after several dryings of the track, and soon enough engines came roaring to life. Drivers sped down areas like the iconic Michigan Avenue, down DuSable and part of Lake Shore Drive. Apartment dwellers above the track pressed against their windows above and onlookers ripped through the fabric on the fencing to catch a glimpse.
The race itself was full of intensity. The rain added another layer of drama and unpredictability. Several yellow flags were thrown up as drivers slid and crashed with no injuries. At one point there was a massive buildup of cars on the track, temporarily pausing the race. After a great fight on the track, Shane Van Gisbergen came out as the champion. A New Zealand native with street course experience, Shane excited fans and brought a new sense of victory to his team, Trackhouse Racing.
Despite the rain and reworked race schedule, it seemed not a single fan left without a smile on their face. The excitement of being up close and personal with these cars is an experience like no other. This was the first street course in NASCAR history, marking an important moment for them as well as the city of Chicago.
Check below to get a glimpse into WLUW’s coverage of NASCAR weekend: