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There Are Better Sites For Next Year’s NASCAR Chaos

The engine fumes and screeching tires may be gone, but the impact of the NASCAR Chicago Street Race on downtown traffic, Loop residents, small businesses, and our cherished 16-inch Grant Park softball leagues will linger for months, maybe years.

For months, this writer had an eerie feeling that the two-day NASCAR event would bring death to Chicago because the organization’s events average six crashes per race, for a total of 220 mishaps per year. Luckily, this year, a NASCAR racer didn’t crash in flames into Buckingham Fountain.

NASCAR may have drawn 50,000 to 100,000 fans, generated an economic impact of $114 million, boosted hotel business, provided hours of national TV coverage to polish Chicago’s image as a gleaming lakefront tourist destination. But there are better locations for next year’s races.

That’s why it is time for The Home Front to list the following suggestions for the 2024 NASCAR Road Race sites:

• U.S. Steel’s 415-acre South Works site likely would be the perfect spot to build a lasting NASCAR Chicago Road Race course, either circular or street style. The lakefront site is vacant. And, heaven knows, the neighborhood could use some commercial investment.

Last marketed in 2020 as 8080 Lakeshore Drive, this Far South Side lakefront location has been called a “magnificent property.” It was one of the five locations considered for the Chicago casino. The site has been vacant since 1992, when U.S. Steel closed the plant and demolished the buildings.

In 2016, McCaffery Interests abandoned plans for a master-planned community with 13,000 homes, 17.5 million square feet of commercial space, and a 1,500-slip marina. U.S. Steel pulled out when it was not able to finance the project.

In 2019, Common, the famed South Side-born rapper, partnered with other developers with plans to bring hotels, entertainment venues, and a movie studio to the site, but COVID-19 killed the deal.

• Soldier Field would be a great second choice for NASCAR’s 2024 race. Little construction would be required to set up an oval or even a figure-eight track.

The original Soldier Field stadium hosted a few NASCAR events on a track created around the playing field in 1939. In 1956, the racecourse had a half-mile track for a 200-lap race and hosted a “Cup” series. It was better and safer than racing in the streets.

• The Jane Byrne Interchange at the spaghetti junction of the Dan Ryan, Kennedy, and Eisenhower Expressways (I-90/I-94 and I-290) would be an exciting site for NASCAR 2024. Imagine race cars flying around those cloverleafs at 130 miles an hour!

The “NASCAR Flyover” course could be set up to run two miles west to Ashland Avenue, then loop back to downtown. Of course, temporary bleachers and skyboxes would have to be set up on the south and north sides of the Eisenhower, and choice seating could be provided on the CTA platforms in the middle.

Sight lines would be sensational because the expressway is sunken in a valley.

When the inevitable crashes happen, the injured could be whisked for treatment to Rush University Medical Center, only a hubcap’s throw from the racecourse.

In 2004, the interchange was rated the nation’s third-worst traffic bottleneck. That led to an $800 million reconfiguration that started in 2013 and was completed in 2022. The Illinois Department of Transportation expects a 50 percent reduction in traffic delays as a result of the project.

If the in-city NASCAR sites don’t pan out, the next suggested choice is Arlington Park in northwest suburban Arlington Heights. After all, this 326-acre horse racing track, which recently was purchased by the Chicago Bears for $197.2 million, really is a deeded racetrack. Only minor rezoning and asphalt paving would be required to get the engines revving on this perfect oval. Too bad the Bears received demolition permits to remove the beautiful stands.

Bears loyal season ticket holders should get reduced ticket prices for the NASCAR races.

Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. Visit


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Steve Sanders, “Your Money Matters” WGN TV, December 22, 2014

By Don DeBat

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