NASCAR: Two drivers avoid committing post-race felonies

Shane van Gisbergen, Trackhouse, Chicago, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Shane van Gisbergen, Trackhouse, Chicago, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

NASCAR drivers were reportedly told that jumping into the Buckingham Fountain is a felony, eliminating the celebration many were hoping for.

The inaugural NASCAR race weekend on the streets of Chicago, Illinois could not have been more unique, even beyond the fact that it featured the first ever Cup Series street race in the sport’s 75-year history.

Lightning caused Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, The Loop 121, to be stopped shy of the distance required for it to be considered an official event, thus moving the remainder of it to Sunday morning. But conditions at the 12-turn, 2.2-mile (3.541-kilometer) Chicago Street Course did not allow the race to continue on Sunday.

So even though neither the halfway point (lap 28) nor the end of stage two (lap 30) of the 55-lap race had been reached, NASCAR called it off and declared Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer the winner. Custer was the leader when the race was halted on Saturday after lap 25.

Sunday’s 100-lap Grant Park 220 NASCAR Cup Series race ended up being delayed and thus shortened due to darkness.

It was shortened to 75 laps, but a late caution led to an overtime period which extended it to 78 laps. Shane van Gisbergen, in his first Cup Series start, won the race in Trackhouse Racing Team’s PROJECT91 entry.

The 34-year-old New Zealander was a contender all race after starting in third place. He battled his way back up through the field after being mired back in the pack in the latter stages of the event. He made two late passes for the lead on Kaulig Racing’s Justin Haley and held off the driver of the No. 31 Chevrolet in overtime.

The win was PROJECT91’s first win in only its third ever race, and it marked the first time in more than six decades that a driver won his Cup Series debut.

One question that some fans had heading into the weekend is whether or not the victory celebration would incorporate the Buckingham Fountain, which is located just outside the Grant Park course layout at the start/finish line.

After all, we have seen the IndyCar winner take a dip in the James Scott Memorial Fountain after races on Belle Isle in Detroit, Michigan in the past, so such a celebration would not have been a first.

But NASCAR drivers who performed such a celebration this weekend theoretically could have been charged with a felony.

According to Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass, drivers were told that it is a felony to jump into the fountain for any reason. So neither Custer nor van Gisbergen jumped into the fountain to celebrate their victories during the first race weekend at the track.

Truck Series driver Carson Hocevar had an interesting idea, given the conditions throughout the weekend.

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NASCAR has a three-year deal with the city of Chicago for this street race weekend, though there was some uncertainty surrounding its future entering this year’s event. The current plan is for the sport to return to the Windy City in 2024, though the final two years of that initial three-year deal are reportedly option years.