FOX NASCAR Insider
ATLANTA — In the days following the Chicago street race, some of the talk centered on whether the event would happen on the streets of Chicago again in 2024.
But taking a wide-angle view of one of NASCAR’s biggest events in years, the talk centers on what impact the success of that street course race could have on schedules beyond next year and beyond Chicago.
“The opportunities are sort of endless,” said four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon, who is executive vice chairman of Hendrick Motorsports. “If we could put on a street course race in downtown Chicago, then where can we go next? What can we do next?
“It certainly comes at a good time as you look at TV negotiations [for 2025 and beyond) and trying to build the sport and what the future looks like.”
A street course in another city is somewhat unlikely for next year as NASCAR probably would want to focus on Chicago, assuming that the city does not opt out of the final two years of the deal by giving NASCAR the required 180-day notice.
Even with the rain for the July 2 race, the buzz the event created most likely will have other cities wondering if it is possible on their streets. The race was the most-viewed Cup telecast since this year’s Daytona 500.
NASCAR likely will want to capitalize on the momentum, including New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen winning in his Cup debut — a feat that likely only enhanced talk about the event internationally, where street circuits are more common.
It might not be until 2025 or later when the impact is truly felt. NASCAR likely will have its 2024 schedule finalized in the next couple of months.
“It has to have an impact just because if you look at it, it really felt old school to me as you walk into the hotel and you talk to people and the buzz in the city, and they did an excellent job of laying out the racetrack and the way that that it all functioned,” said Cup veteran Kevin Harvick.
“It was a great event and promoted really well. And so I think it just gives you a lot of flexibility to go and do things in the future at really any city that that you want to that’ll have you.”
NASCAR has talked with the Meadowlands to see if it would be feasible to set up a course that would have the New York City skyline as a background but so far the logistics of how to do it among other events scheduled for the area have proven too difficult to get a deal done.
Brad Keselowski, a Cup team owner and driver, indicated he isn’t thinking about which U.S. city could have the event.
“The biggest thing for me is last week opens up International more than anything else,” Keselowski said. “I don’t see doing that type of event any other place in the United States.
“But internationally, it will probably open some things up. And if we were to go race internationally, specifically on a different continent, I think we prove that there’s an opportunity to do that.”
The next step internationally might not be a street course. Industry personnel have indicated that they have been told to get their passports ready to race in Canada as early as next year. NASCAR’s Xfinity Series raced on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, the same course as the Formula 1 cars from 2007-2012.
A Canadian Grand Prix spokeswoman confirmed that they have had preliminary conversations with NASCAR regarding a Cup race in Montreal and those conversations have been “ongoing for quite some time.”
“I’m 100 percent all for going back,” said Xfinity Series driver Justin Allgaier, who won the 2012 race. “I think it would be a fantastic race. I love that style of track.
“People questioned the layout of Chicago last week, and the Cup race was phenomenal. … I think Montreal would even have a better quality of race. As far as like having extra passing zones. I think the new Cup car would suit that racetrack very well.”
While NASCAR has raced internationally at Canada and Mexico with its Xfinity Series (and trucks in Canada), its international ventures in Cup have been few and far between. They staged an exhibition race in Japan from 1996-98.
“Montreal would be a phenomenal race for us,” Allgaier said. “Internationally, we have to grow, right?
“Whether that is Montreal or somewhere else. … With SVG [van Gisbergen] winning at Chicago, it opens us up to having a lot greater international presence and that’s something that would be huge for sport. We definitely have the opportunity. We just have to make the most of it.”
NASCAR’s international presence also grew in the last month thanks to the Hendrick Motorsports-NASCAR entry at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The “Garage 56” program — a program for innovative vehicles — put a Cup car in that event, a unique beast of a vehicle compared to the sports cars that are in that race.
“What’s great about this is NASCAR has huge interest globally right now,” said NASCAR Chief Operating Officer Steve O’Donnell. “We saw it in Garage 56. Ben [Kennedy] and I had a number of meetings with a number of different countries and a number of different continents wanting races.”.
To race overseas, the question would be logistics. With the Next Gen car being assembled from single-source vendors supplying the parts and pieces, it would be possible to ship parts and pieces overseas and then have the cars assembled there.
Whether that would be easier than shipping full cars overseas would have to be determined.
“It’d be tough to do in the middle of the season, certainly,” Denny Hamlin said. “But NASCAR and the teams will need to have some dialogue about when’s the best time, is it an exhibition or a points race, something like that.
“But certainly I think it’s on the horizon of NASCAR’s thoughts about what’s next.”
Teams won’t want to break the budget in doing events overseas but it seems that the garage — the paddock? — is ready.
”You tell racers you’re going racing somewhere, they’ll figure out how to get stuff there,” said two-time Cup champion Joey Logano. “Racers are a different breed.
“I feel like you can put these people in any industry and they’re going to figure out ways to succeed.”
And like many, Logano feels after his experience last week, he’s willing to try.
“After seeing that, let’s go anywhere,” Logano said.
O’Donnell sounds almost ready to do that.
“I think we’re all confident at NASCAR that we could take the Cup Series anywhere we want,” O’Donnell said. “I know the race we put on [in Chicago] would sell and would be embraced globally for sure.”
Thinking Out Loud
NASCAR changing the pit-road speed at Atlanta under green didn’t get much of a test during the event.
Because NASCAR is having drivers enter pit road in Turn 3, it increased the pit-road speed limit from 45 mph to 90 mph until drivers reached the traditional pit-entry line coming out of Turn 4. The change was designed to keep drivers from going two laps down if they had to pit under green.
QUAKER STATE 400 highlights
NASCAR called the QUAKER STATE 400 due to rain, resulting in a win for William Byron at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
With seven cautions in the rain-shortened 185-lap race, drivers never had to make a green-flag pit stop unless they already had trouble.
But it was a good move to make and hopefully will make a difference in future events.
In The News
–Six drivers will test a new short-track and road course underwing Monday and Tuesday after next week’s race at New Hampshire. Christopher Bell, Harrison Burton, William Byron, Justin Haley, Ryan Preece and Erik Jones will do the test, where the underwing is shaped to create lift when a car is in clean air but when the airflow changes underneath the car while in traffic, a driver would have more downforce and therefore more of an ability to pass the car in front. Goodyear will be part of this test to look at what tire compound works best. Any changes wouldn’t be put into effect this year with an aggressive goal at the start of the 2024 season.
–NASCAR has a new pace-car driver in the Cup Series. With Kip Childress leaving his Cup assistant series director role to be executive director of the CARS Tour, Jesse Dollevoet takes over the duties. Dollevoet has been assistant series director and driving the pace car in the Craftsman Truck Series.
Stat of the Day
Atlanta Motor Speedway is the first track where William Byron has won multiple Cup races.
They Said It
“Honestly, I don’t completely understand this one.” —William Byron on his rain-shortened win in Atlanta
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.
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