Dive deeper into NASCAR’s premiere street track race, which will traverse the Grant Park area of downtown Chicago.
Chicago street map
Image source: Uncredited
The forecourt and pit areas are located on South Columbus Drive and run along a two-block stretch that will take the Xfinity and Cup fields past the famous Buckingham Fountain, a Chicago landmark dedicated in 1927 and one of the largest in the world.
Drivers will turn left from South Columbus Drive onto East Balbo Drive and toward Lake Michigan at the first of the 90-degree turns that mark the course.
This will be the first chance to see if NASCAR’s version of street racing will resemble what happened recently at its road tracks, with the potential for restart chaos.
“When there’s a 90-degree (turn) with a concrete barrier, you’ll think twice about burying it in there. It’s just the fact of the matter,” said Cup driver Michael McDowell. On the road – in particular, at the start and restart.”
Although there are many 90-degree turns around the circuit, they vary greatly in width, with Turn 1 being one of the most manageable. Side by side from here is possible, and don’t be surprised to see three sides on a late race restart.
It turns from 2 to 5
Drivers face their first right hand on the south lanes of DuSable Lake Shore Drive, where a dive bomb can be made under the curb…if you’re daring enough.
What follows is not a very straight with a fast right hand curve (Turn 3) in the middle of it, just in front of Museum Field. Drivers will start to lift at some point from here as they quickly approach a difficult braking area.
The field will then turn right again onto East Roosevelt Road, which is the southern portion of the track. Turn 4 is a very difficult section of the track, clipping the inside wall on entry or pushing out into the outside wall is an easy mistake to make. This angle is easy to miss, as Trophy star Denny Hamlin said on his podcast this week that it took him over an hour to get it right on the simulator.
In the fifth turn, another right-of-field person is waiting. The shape of the inner wall here makes it much easier to navigate than most other corners around the track. Fixing the exit here will be critical to what comes next, as the field will then be brought back to South Columbus Drive for the longest straight on the entire track.
“There are two really long tracks that lead to sharp corners and crossing areas,” said driver Kevin Harvick. “There’s not a lot of runoff, so if you make a mistake, you usually hit something.”
This 90-degree left turn into East Balbo Drive is one of the most interesting parts of the track – it’s right behind Turn 1 and will make for some great photos. You can see a lot of downshifting in this corner when drivers are running a long straight, or simply unloading the car in front of them. But you’re going to really want to get everything in order before the turn as things are going to get pretty tight.
South Michigan Avenue’s 90-degree right turn sends drivers north again and creates one of the most challenging segments of the course. Going into Turn 7 presents a unique challenge as drivers will go over a bridge, setting up a downhill braking zone on one of the tightest sections of the entire track.
Hall of Famer and NBC sports analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. Possible issues going into this, “They’d have to start braking in Turn 7 when the car comes up the hill, and that would be really unconventional.
“The car wants to lock the tires when you hit the brake pedal there. So, it’s going to be fun to watch them try to climb the hill, brake, slow down, turn right — all of those things at the same time.”
It turns from 8 to 10 years old
Drivers follow the Congress Plaza curve to the right, which begins with a sweeping path that runs through Ida B.
This is one of the more volatile parts of the circuit. While the top shot doesn’t really do it justice, it’s very tempting to nearly clip the wall entering Turn 8 while you’re trying to set up a better run into Turn 9. Doing so will almost certainly send the driver into the turns. On the wall at the exit, and will leave those who have absolutely nowhere to go. If there is going to be a track-blocking accident, this might be the place.
Drivers will then have to make the car quickly back to the left in order to go around (and very bumpy) Turn 9. And you’ll have to feather the throttle from here, keeping it tight against the wall.
Then we have Turn 10, where the cars will carry a decent amount of speed with drivers likely to pick up the throttle and not touch the brakes as they once again get dangerously close to the inside wall.
This 90-degree right-hander on East Jackson Drive is the northernmost part of the course. You’ll easily see the famous bronze African lion sculptures of the Art Institute of Chicago, founded in 1879. It’s a pretty standard performance without any surprising quirks.
Another 90-degree right hand brings the field straight ahead and pit road, which is flanked on the left by the temporarily constructed Congress and Park Pavilions and on the right by the massive two-level Paddock Club.
The braking area in the last corner is also downhill, but not as steep as the braking area in Turn 7.
Don’t expect a lot going through Turns 11 and 12, unless someone makes a mistake. That’s probably going to be a train of cars from here, just focus on getting a good run on the front stretch for a potential attack in Turn 1.
Screenshots from iRacing