NASCAR: Is Chicago a sign of things to come?

James Davison, Rick Ware Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
James Davison, Rick Ware Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

The fifth race of the 2021 eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series took place at the virtual Chicago Street Course. Is this a sign of things to come?

On Wednesday evening, dozens of NASCAR Cup Series drivers competed in the fifth race of this year’s 10-race eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series.

Up until this point, all of the races of the series had taken place at virtual versions of the tracks which were scheduled to host real-life races during the upcoming weekend.

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The first four races of this year’s virtual series took place at the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track, Talladega Superspeedway, Darlington Raceway and Circuit of the Americas.

This one, however, took place at a fictional track on the streets of Chicago, Illinois.

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But while this weekend’s real-life race is scheduled to take place at Sonoma Raceway and not the streets of the Windy City, this virtual race still could be a sign of things to come.

The belief is that this 12-turn, 2.19-mile (3.524-kilometer) temporary Chicago Street Course, which connects some of Chicago’s landmark streets, including Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive, and laps the perimeter of Grant Park with the downtown skyline as a backdrop, could become a reality as early as 2022.

NASCAR has never run a Cup Series street course race before, but rumblings over the past few years have indicated that this is going to change at some point in the near future, especially as the sport continues to make changes to the complexion of the schedule.

If that is indeed to change, it could very well change on the streets of Chicago.

A report from Sports Business Journal‘s Adam Stern earlier this year noted that this race was a “dry run” for an eventual real-life street race in the city of Chicago, a race which would arrive on the schedule at some point in the coming years.

NASCAR did not confirm that report, but that is the direction in which things are still pointing. This race wasn’t simply run as a virtual novelty; the groundwork was laid far before it was announced in March.

The Cup Series no longer runs a race in the Chicago area, having taken Chicagoland Speedway off the schedule after last year.

In fact, the four-turn, 1.5-mile (2.414-kilometer) oval in Joliet did not even get to host a race in what was supposed to be its final year in 2020, as it was wiped off the calendar as a result of COVID-19-related restrictions. It hosted one Cup Series race each year from 2001 to 2019.

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On Wednesday evening, it was Rick Ware Racing’s James Davison who dominated and took the checkered flag at the virtual Chicago Street Course.