Categories: Giveaways

NASCAR’s deal with Chicago is almost a complete giveaway

If NASCAR’s new business partner were a state rather than a city, we’d be reconfiguring the American flag with seven rows of seven stars each. That’s because Chicago would be bankrupt and taken over by a neighboring state.

I say this because NASCAR negotiated such an unequal deal for a 2023 street race that even other elected officials in Chicago hate what Mayor Lori Lightfoot did.

I have low expectations for the quality of racing we will see at the Cup Series event. However, it’s now clear why NASCAR made the deal. The risk is minimal, even if it bombs completely.

NASCAR will spend the July 4th holiday weekend in Chicago next year

Daniel Suarez leads the field during the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 on June 12, 2022 at Sonoma Raceway. | Matthew Bolt/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

NASCAR will release its 2023 Cup schedule later this month, but few details are known. The year will begin with the Busch Light Clash returning to Los Angeles the week before the Super Bowl, and then Daytona opens the points racing season the week after the NFL title game. Additionally, NASCAR maintains Phoenix as the site of the Championship 4 in November.

For now, almost everything else is guesswork. The exception is the planned Independence Day weekend in Chicago. NASCAR and the city’s mayor recently announced plans for the Cup Series to run on a street circuit, replacing Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., according to the schedule.

NASCAR officials see street racing as an innovation that will appeal to the public while bringing the sport to a major metropolitan area. The strategy is an extension of moving this season’s Busch Light Clash to a quarter-mile track inside the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Chicago made numerous concessions to NASCAR, including cash concessions

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NASCAR and Chicago announce teaming up for 2023 race pro forma, with officials both giving speeches and giving interviews promoting the excitement the event will generate. As is often the case, they were light on details beyond revealing what the course will look like.

The media finally got hold of the 46-page contract between the city and NASCAR last week, and it’s a gift from the government. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, NASCAR will pay the Chicago Park District $500,000 for the use of much of Grant Park for the 2023 race. There are 10 percent kickbacks in 2024 and ’25. The wording of the options for the next two years is vague, but implies additional increases that would bring the price to $732,000 in 2027.

The rest of the city’s revenue will come from $2 per ticket sold, which won’t be much since installing major grandstands in urban settings is a challenge, and 15% from concession and merchandise sales in 2023. The percentage increases by 5% annually. in subsequent NASCAR visits.

If that sounds like a lot of potential money, it’s not. Crain’s reported that the park district’s contract with a popular annual Lollapalooza event has sponsorship and broadcast revenue sharing provisions, but NASCAR is exempt.

NASCAR’s only other expense is to repair the damage. NASCAR’s security deposit is $50,000, which equates to five sets of fines to Cup Series teams for loose lug nuts found in post-race inspections.

All told, the weekend in Chicago could cost NASCAR $1 million, which is chump change.

Chicago officials are not happy with the deal

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As if the financial details weren’t bad enough, Chicago is giving NASCAR more time than previously announced to install and tear down the infrastructure needed to race on city streets. Crain’s said the park district previously said NASCAR could arrive nine days early and stay three days after the event. The new staging window starts 21 days before the race and ends 10 days after it, a major inconvenience for businesses and residents.

Several Chicago aldermen expressed anger at being left out of the negotiations.

“We get $6 million from Lollapalooza permit payments, we’ll get less than a million from NASCAR to tie up downtown and Grant Park over the summer,” 2nd Ward Councilman Brian Hopkins told WMAQ -TV in Chicago.

“They’re making dollars and we’re making pennies,” he added. “This is a bad deal for taxpayers.”

He said 42n.d Ward Councilman Brendan Reilly: “I find it incredible that the city believes that a $50,000 security deposit is enough to secure tens of millions of dollars in city infrastructure in and around Grant Park for a stock car race which sometimes involved major car accidents.”

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Have a question or comment about the races? John Moriello of Sportscasting does a mailbag column every Friday. Email him at

RELATED: Trading Road America for Chicago would be NASCAR’s mistake


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