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NASCAR and Street Races: This is the Way

Image: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

This past weekend NASCAR made a historic mark in the sports 75 year history, racing on their first ever street course. Street Courses have been seen in numerous racing series from IndyCar to F1, but the concept is completely foreign to anyone familiar with NASCAR. The series decided to dip their toes in this year by racing on the brand new Chicago street course.

NASCAR’s first Street Race

Many fans, analysts, and drivers were very skeptical of the race and the course layout itself. To the surprise of many, the track was extremely raceable. That was prevalent after practice on Saturday and despite rain putting a damper on the weekend, the Cup Series race put on a spectacular show. There was plenty of passing and plenty of action all throughout the racetrack. Sure, there were plenty of mistakes and even a traffic jam on Jackson Drive. However the race produced racing that any race fan can enjoy.

With the rain playing a factor early on and darkness effecting the late stages of the race, there was plenty of strategy involved as well. Did I mention the winner of this inaugural event, Shane Van Gisbergen, has never raced in a NASCAR event before? SVG put on an outstanding performance, passing a solid chunk of the field to put himself in position for the win. His victory marks the first time a driver has won in their first start since 1963 and it officially made this race one fans will never forget.

Does NASCAR work on a street circuit?

Based on the on-track product Sunday as well as driver and fan reactions, it’s safe to say NASCAR and street racing do work. The Next Gen car is a big reason for that, as it has bigger brakes, a wider tire, and was ultimately designed to cater to road racing. As it turns out, the car makes the transition to street courses very well. I firmly believe that with a generation six or previous type vehicle, this race would not have worked out as smoothly.

NASCAR has worked on their road course package the last few years and even added rain tires. Every new addition was put to the test this past weekend and thankfully everything went smoothly. With the track being quite narrow, it hid some of the Next Gen car’s issues on road courses and had the positives shine brightly. With the track being more raceable than most predicted, NASCAR could definitely see more street courses. The question is, how and where?

How should NASCAR implement street circuits in the schedule?

I think there is a simple way to incorporate road racing into the sport. For years NASCAR only had two road course races on the schedule, Sonoma and Watkins Glen. Now, the series has six with the additions of the Charlotte Roval, Circuit of the America’s, Indianapolis road course, and of course the Chicago Street Race.

Six road course races is a good number for the series to stay with. I’m not fully opposed to more, but I think six is the sweet spot. Included in that six, I believe NASCAR should have two street races per year.

With that said, the Indianapolis road course should not be on the NASCAR schedule after this year. The oval will hopefully replace the road course, bringing back tradition and opening a road course race slot. I could see Richmond then losing a date to allow a sixth road course to remain on the schedule.

If NASCAR keeps the Chicago Street Race around to make it a yearly tradition in the sport, I think the second street race could rotate from year to year. Each year the series can travel to a new city and run a street course race. Not only would it help add to the fan base, but it wouldn’t fully oversaturate the idea of a street race in NASCAR. Every year, you’d get your traditional Chicago Street Race alongside a fresh and new street race. Now the question is, where should NASCAR go?

NASCAR’s best city options

Hopefully this race produced a product that other cities want to be a part of. Assuming so, here are my picks for cities that deserve a NASCAR street race.


Seattle is about as far away as NASCAR can get from their home base in North Carolina, but I think trying to tap into that market could be a big deal. Most of these new events on the schedule were added to help draw in new fan interest and considering NASCAR doesn’t race anywhere near Seattle, there will be a surplus of new fans. Not only that, but a race with the Space Needle and Seattle skyline in the background could look absolutely stunning. Seattle is filled with diehards for their sports teams, similar to Chicago, so fan turnout would be phenomenal. With the right layout, this race could definitely be a success.

New Orleans

NASCAR has a ton of races in the southern United States and adding one more to an untapped market would be a sight many in the area would want to see. New Orleans only has a football and basketball team, so I’m sure they would be welcoming to a new sport entering the fold. If NASCAR raced through the streets of New Orleans, not only would fan turnout be tremendous, the TV ratings would be too. If NASCAR wants to keep attacking new markets and have the race be closer to home, New Orleans is a great selection.


A Denver Street Race is the one that I feel is the most likely out of these choices. It’s one of the markets that has been brought up frequently when discussing new road courses and I believe it would be a success. There’s a wonderful skyline with the mountains in the background and they can even race by the Broncos stadium as well. Adding a Denver race to the schedule helps NASCAR continue to gain followers out west. Also, NASCAR used to race in Colorado at Pikes Peak International Raceway, so there may be more already established fans who will come see the race as well. Overall, I see Denver as one of the top choices for NASCAR’s next street race.

San Diego

One of my personal favorite vacation spots, San Diego allows NASCAR to further grow their popularity in California. NASCAR already runs The Clash, Auto Club, and Sonoma in California, so a fourth race may be too much. However, with Auto Club’s planned renovations that may cause it to lose a couple races, a San Diego street race can slide into the NASCAR schedule for a season with ease. With its close proximity to L.A., the race could pull new fans from San Diego and diehards from Los Angeles.

New York

This one is on here mainly for the idea of it. We saw how cool the Chicago Street Race was with the skyline in the background. Replicating the idea in New York would put NASCAR front and center of the entire country. While I firmly believe there is no way this would happen unless the race took place miles away from the big city, the idea is one fans can dream about. Fortunately, NASCAR already races in New York at Watkins Glen so they have tapped the market. If the race were to happen, it would be for the novelty of it as it would gain a ton of buzz. Unfortunately, I think it will always be just a dream.

The Future of Street Races in NASCAR

NASCAR may decide two street races is a good idea, or maybe the stick with one. They may even try to put three or four on the schedule. Personally, as I’ve laid out I think it’s important not to oversaturate the idea. The idea has novelty because it’s fresh, new, and rare. Adding multiple street course races would take that away and doesn’t allow any tradition to be made. NASCAR has been no stranger to new events on the schedule. That being said, they haven’t started any new traditions that fans get hyped for every year. They have tried with Bristol Dirt but fans haven’t seemed to gravitate to dirt on their favorite short track. This is that opportunity with Chicago. Race the Chicago street race every year alongside a new street race in a new market. The idea is one I truly believe NASCAR should think about.


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Mason Wood is a writer and editor for Back Sports Page based out of Gilbert, Arizona. Mason mainly works on football and motorsports content. He is a co-host of The Outside Line Podcast. You can check out more articles by Mason Wood here!

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