Chicago soon to be the American road racing capital?
Just as the emperors put on shows for the Romans at the Colosseum to distract them from raising taxes, the mayor of Chicago gives us the NASCAR Cup Series Street Race.
25-Jul-22 – Based on the recently announced master plan of our revered and visionary Mayor Lori “Street Smart” Lightfoot, Chicago may soon be known as America’s NASCAR racing capital.
The plan to turn downtown streets, avenues and boulevards into a 2.2-mile road racing circuit is pure genius. Imagine those bloated, sticker-covered muscle cars burning rubber and speeding around Grant Park at speeds of up to 130 miles per hour!
With engines roaring, pro drivers would downshift through 12 challenging 90-degree turns that would normally earn average Chicagoans hefty speeding tickets for going six mph over the 30 mph limit.
Of course, current plans include closing road traffic for the July 2, 2023 event and race car pits would be anchored on Columbus Drive in front of the Buckingham Fountain. Temporary fencing will be installed and grandstands built to provide front-row seating for thousands of cheering Chicagoans.
Downtown festival tradition will require that all 16-inch softball league championship games at Grant Park be canceled as they conflict with Chicago’s new racing platform.
Post-race activities will include food venues, rock music and plenty of entertainment, all designed to boost the city’s hotel and hospitality industries and generate tourism revenue.
The weekend’s historic event, in which the city of Chicago and NASCAR are partners in a three-year agreement, would also include an International Motor Sports Association-sanctioned series race on July 1, 2023. July 2’s first race is one of 36 nationwide events in the NASCAR Cup Series.
As crazy as the event may seem, historians say the proposed race is not the first NASCAR event to be held in Chicago. In July 1956, a NASCAR Cup Series race was held at Soldier Field. And, in the early 1980s, the late mayor Jane Byrne proposed a Formula 1 race on Lake Shore Drive. This run never materialized.
Our smart mayor says the excitement of the racing event is “off the charts”. At a recent press conference, she called the course “one of the most iconic of all time”.
NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace (left), who plans to drive his Toyota Camry in the race, called the Chicago event “exciting” and he is looking forward to the challenge. Wallace’s racing team is sponsored by the Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan.
Doesn’t all this fanfare and spectacle remind you of the sporting events held by Roman emperors in the Colosseum to entertain the crowds as taxes were raised and collected for foreign wars? Think of the chariot races in the film Ben Hur.
Since this writer is a Chicago landlord who pays his share of property taxes, it’s only fair that we contribute ideas for the first annual report. Chicago Street Smart Awards and turn the weekend of July 1-2, 2023 into an annual signature Windy City event open to all of the city’s most skilled car drivers:
• Best Donut Spinners and Drifters. This award is designed to honor daredevils who have recently been spotlighted on the 10 p.m. newscast. Apparently, they get an adrenaline rush from drag racing and “drifting,” which is the art of doing donuts at the West Loop and Goose Island intersections at 4 a.m.
Last week, the Chicago City Council wisely passed an ordinance giving police the power to seize cars belonging to donut spinners and slap them with a $2,000 fine. The penalty would be added to the city’s existing drag racing fines, which are $5,000 to $10,000, plus a towing fee of $500.
• The Dan Ryan Hot Wheels Award. This coveted citation would honor muscle car drivers who consistently exceed 100 mph on the Dan Ryan Highway, which has a 55 mph speed limit. The Illinois State Police is responsible for enforcing speeding on the highways and will present the award.
Fortunately, a new state law, which will take effect in 2023, prohibits “street performances”. Street racing and blocking or obstructing traffic will be illegal on all state roads, including the Dan Ryan, Eisenhower Freeway and Du Sable Lake Shore Drive.
The penalty for blocking intersections will be a $250 fine and up to one year in jail. The fine for street racing will be $500 and felony charges for more serious offenses.
• Most difficult pothole. This award targets urban drivers who skillfully avoid the deepest potholes identified by the mayor’s survey, which currently counts more than 30,000 asphalt divots in our roadways.
Chicagoans rev up your engines!