NASCAR Chicago

Chicago officials to ‘assess' options for NASCAR Street Race as opt-out decision looms

NBC Universal, Inc.

The first-ever NASCAR Chicago Street Race is in the books, but Mayor Brandon Johnson says that the evaluation process for the event's future in the city remains ongoing, with an opt-out clause in the three-year contract remaining on the table.

The race, which shut down large swaths of Grant Park and portions of several key roadways including Michigan Avenue and DuSable Lake Shore Drive, was a unique spectacle, one that the racing circuit had never seen, but Johnson says he will dispassionately evaluate it in the weeks to come.

“Like everything else I inherited, I’m a teacher, so I will assess it and grade it and it will be an open process where other folks get a chance to weigh in,” he said.

The original deal that NASCAR signed with the city was a three-year pact, according to officials.

That contract includes several opt-out clauses. NASCAR and the Chicago Park District can mutually agree to terminate the agreement without penalty if they agree to do so 180 days after last weekend's race.

NASCAR can also choose to unilaterally cancel the end after that, but would owe the city of Chicago a $250,000 termination fee.

Prior to the race, NASCAR officials had expressed a desire to hold the event again, and TV ratings would seemingly back that decision up. The race drew a 2.5 rating, the highest ratings for a race since the 2023 Daytona 500.

It was also NBC's most-watched race since the 2017 season finale at Homestead-Miami, with an average of 4.8 million viewers on linear TV, Peacock and other streaming platforms.

The process behind agreeing to the three-year contract, orchestrated by former Mayor Lori Lightfoot, was roundly blasted by activists, members of the Chicago City Council and some residents, who said the secretive dealings left the city with a bad contract that adversely impacted the community.

Johnson said that the process on deciding whether to have the race again next year will involve a lot more community input.

“I’m confident that the people of Chicago and our administration will come up with a way forward that’s in the best interest for the entire city,” he said.

Under that deal, NASCAR agreed to pay the city a rate of $2 per ticket sold, as well as a percentage of net commissions on food and beverage sales. An annual permit fee of $500,000 was also agreed upon.

In exchange, the city gave NASCAR control over large portions of Grant Park for concert spaces, a fan fair and more.

The racecourse required the closure not just of DuSable Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue, but also Columbus Drive, Jackson Boulevard and more.

Johnson said he was grateful to city residents for adjusting their lives around the closures, as well as for visitors that came to the city to enjoy the race.

“We’re very grateful that despite the extreme weather that NASCAR was able to deliver with very minimal disruption,” he said.

The race, delayed by rain and cut short by 25 laps due to darkness, was ultimately won by Shane van Gisbergen, who was competing in his first NASCAR Cup Series event.

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