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Seeking more NASCAR cash and possible new date, city leaders support Chicago Street Race in Year 2

City leaders are warming to stock cars racing through the Loop, but the future of the Chicago Street Race could hinge on NASCAR ponying up more cash.

With a three-year deal set to conclude with next year’s race on the downtown streets of The Windy City, Brian Hopkins, the alderman for Chicago’s second district, told the Chicago Sun-Times that he would want NASCAR to increase its financial outlay to the city if the event continues beyond 2025.

Hopkins said “a more accurate and specific picture” of the race’s economic impact was needed, but he believes Chicago deserves greater compensation.

Asked for comment, the NASCAR Chicago Street Race released this statement to NBC Sports:

“NASCAR continues to invest in Chicago, including a historic investment of more than $50 million of our own capital in Year One. In addition to our agreed-upon terms with the Chicago Park District, we also agreed to an additional voluntary contribution of an additional $2 million to the city for both 2024 and 2025. Beyond these direct payments, we’ve also contributed more than $2 million to the community to date, including nearly $400,000 to local community-based organizations during race week this year alone.”

After the Chicago Tribune and other outlets reported the city spent $3.5 million on road work for last year’s race, Mayor Brandon Johnson reached a deal with NASCAR on an additional voluntary contribution of $2 million by the sanctioning body in both 2024 and ’25.

For the 2024 race, NASCAR also will pay $550,000 to the Chicago Park District, plus $2 per ticket sold and 20% of the net sales from food, beverage and merchandise. Next year, the amount rises to $605,000 to the park district, plus the share of ticket revenue and 25% of sales.

For the inaugural 2023 race, NASCAR paid $500,000 to the Chicago Park District and $120,000 from sales of tickets, merchandise and food and beverage.

Hopkins was among the many critics of the initial deal that was brokered by former Mayor Lori Lightfoot (who lost an election and left office before the inaugural 2023 Cup race) without input from the city council.

Some have noted that the Lollapalooza music festival (which is held in the same Grant Park location) paid nearly $10 million to the park district last year and also donated money to invest in tennis and pickleball courts.

“We really drove a hard bargain during the most recent contract with Lollapalooza and the difference speaks for itself,” Hopkins told the Sun-Times. “But we rolled over for NASCAR.”

Hopkins, who also criticized Mayor Brandon Johnson’s reworked deal for this year’s race, attended a NASCAR race for the first time Saturday and expressed optimism about its future.

NASCAR: Grant Park 165

Jul 7, 2024; Chicago, Illinois, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Blaney (12) during the Grant Park 165 at Chicago Street Race. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Defending NASCAR Cup champion Ryan Blaney races through the streets of Chicago in Year 2 of the Grant Park 165 (Mike Dinovo/USA TODAY Sports Images Network).

“I do see the benefits, the tourism it brings, and that NASCAR puts Chicago on the international stage, and frankly, we look pretty good,” Hopkins told the Sun-Times. “I know I’m always a critic of NASCAR, but they have done the best possible job. To build a temporary Daytona speedway in downtown Chicago, I don’t think anyone can do it better than them.”

But Hopkins also said there are intractable issues for his downtown residents with closing major streets during a holiday weekend. Though Chicago Street Race president Julie Giese has said six days were cut from the 2024 schedule (three from building the track, three from disassembling the course), Hopkins said the disruptions still were notable.

“The problem we face is an unsolvable problem,” he said. “There’s really no way to have this race and to satisfy the downtown residents losing access to Grant Park. Downtown residents live for the summer months.”

During a Monday news conference, Mayor Johnson said a new race date would be under consideration.

NASCAR: Grant Park 165

Jul 7, 2024; Chicago, Illinois, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson (5) during the Grant Park 165 at Chicago Street Race. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Larson takes a corner during the Grant Park 165 with Chicago skyline in the background (Mike Dinovo/USA TODAY Sports Images Network).

“Obviously, those were dates that we inherited,” Johnson said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “We will continue to assess how this particular weekend for NASCAR … best benefits the people of Chicago. But no decision has been made on which weekend in particular is best suited.”

Asked by NBC Sports whether the Chicago date could move off July 4 week, the NASCAR Chicago Street Race said in a statement: “While we have a three-year contract with agreed-upon dates, we will continue to work closely with the city to ensure we are aligned on the best timing for NASCAR and the city. We have regular meetings and an ongoing dialogue with the city on a regular basis, so that will continue as we look ahead to 2026.”

The contract between NASCAR and the Chicago Park District calls for the 2025 race weekend to be July 5-6.

According to the contract, NASCAR may request to extend the deal for 2026 and 2027 by providing written notice to the Chicago Park District within 90 days following the prior event. For NASCAR to request a date for 2026, it would have to do so within 90 days after the 2025 event. The contract states that dates after 2025 “shall be held on dates mutually agreeable to NASCAR and the (Chicago Park) District.”

Johnson was an enthusiastic supporter of the race Sunday, wearing a NASCAR firesuit in the pits. In addressing the drivers meeting, the mayor saluted NASCAR for “bringing this country together” and hailed the race’s positive impact on local business.

Though dwarfed by Lollapalooza’s estimated local economic impact of $434 million in 2023, the Chicago Street Race was estimated to have a total economic impact of $108.9 million, according to a report by Temple University’s Sport Industry Research Center.

Among other nuggets in the report:

--The 2023 race weekend’s total attendance was 79,299 (including 47,405 unique attendees) with NASCAR providing that 31,894 two-day tickets were sold. Including 8,126 Sunday-only tickets, there were nearly 40,000 tickets sold to Sunday’s Cup race, which was delayed and shortened by rain.

--The report estimated 24,781 attendees from outside the area had traveled to Chicago solely or primarily for the race, arriving from 15 countries and 50 states.

--The 24,781 non-local attendees spent an average of $684.60 per day, and 54% stayed overnight in hotels or vacation rentals.

--According to NASCAR, the sanctioning body and its partner corporations spent $36.1 million in Chicago (with $25.2 million marginal revenue retained in the city).

--An estimated $8.3 million in new tax revenue was generated at the state and local level.