As days wane, excitement for Chicago Street Race Weekend grows

As days wane, excitement for Chicago Street Race Weekend grows

Downtown Chicago is beginning to bustle more and more as summer nears, and the addition of a street-circuit race will only make the allure of the “Windy City” that much more intriguing to race fans and city-goers alike. With the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series slated to participate in Chicago Street Race Weekend (July 1-2), excitement is certainly in the air as the sport races on the street for the first time in its history.

Of course, you didn’t have to tell Julie Giese that. Since being announced as track president of the new venue in August 2022, Giese, a Wisconsin native, has spearheaded all efforts for the event.

“Spring has sprung in Chicago, so the park is looking absolutely amazing right now, which is fun to see it come to life,” Giese told “Just looking ahead to race weekend, everything is coming together really well. Great planning meetings with the city of Chicago, they’ve been tremendous partners to us alongside the sport’s commission, and I think there is a lot of excitement about the very first street race for NASCAR.”

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Giese’s prior experience certainly helped smooth the transition. From her recent time as track president at Phoenix Raceway, Giese helped oversee a $178 million modernization effort to the 1-mile Arizona track. The state-of-the-art transition, in turn, helped pave the way toward the track hosting its first NASCAR Championship Weekend in 2020. Phoenix has hosted the season finale since, with 2023 being the fourth consecutive year as championship host, with last year’s Cup sellout — the fourth in a row — further cementing the positive transformation.

Lessons learned while president at Phoenix have been instrumental in implementing Giese’s vision in Chicago.

“I think, for me, it’s making sure that we provide experiences for everybody, so the Chicago Street Race really is an opportunity for us to introduce NASCAR to a whole new audience, but I think what I learned down in Phoenix is making sure you find that blend,” Giese said.


“We still want our avid, longtime fans to participate and be part of it, and so as we’re creating that experience in and around the park, that we have those experiences that our avid, longtime ticket holders or race fans are used to, but also then creating new experiences that are going to drive interest for the new fans thinking about those concerts with The Chainsmokers and Miranda Lambert, Black Crowes and Charlie Crockett. Just being really thoughtful and intentional about the type of experiences we are providing.”

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From the get-go, Griese has emphasized connecting NASCAR with the city of Chicago, whether through engagement with youth programs to supporting local businesses. Giese’s relocation to Chicago in November — and subsequent opening of a NASCAR office there in November — has only helped drive the goal of connecting with the community in as many ways as possible.

To Giese, this includes getting the younger generations involved.


“For us, being a good member of the community and a good partner to the city of Chicago is a huge priority, and that really is what drove the announcements that we’ve done, a lot of the different programs,” Giese said. “Whether it is with Chicago Public Schools, After School Matters, All Kids Bike, being a good member, giving back where we can, and for us, that’s a huge opportunity to introduce youth to NASCAR.

“You don’t always grow up racing a car or a kart. There are so many ways that everyone can be involved and find a career in NASCAR. I think that is what has been really fun about the STEM/STEAM programs with Chicago Public Schools is educating the youth on the ways that you can be involved in NASCAR. Whether it’s an engineer or mechanic, graphic artist, I’m thinking about the STEAM curriculum, so that’s been really fun, and I think it’s been eye-opening for a lot of the students.”

As the months begin to wind down to mere weeks, Giese’s main goals revolve around continuing to build interest and “over-communicating” to local residents and businesses about what to expect. And with the first-ever running on a street course fast approaching, the giddiness is well-earned.

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From the community imprint to the historical impact, both the racing fan and track president in Giese is more than ready to see the newfound street circuit come to life.


“This sport has been around for 75 years, and to be just a small part of something that has never been done before, it’s hard to find those things,” Giese said. “We’ve done a lot in those 75 years, to be part of the very first street race, to truly make history for our sport, is incredibly special.”

The Xfinity Series will race in The Loop 121 on July 1 (5 p.m. ET, USA, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), while the Cup circuit will race in the Grant Park 220 on July 2 (4:30 p.m. ET, NBC, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).