NASCAR Chicago

Potholes and bumps? NASCAR drivers reveal their thoughts on the Chicago street race

Many are practicing on simulated versions in the lead-up to the race, but say that has its limitations

NBC Universal, Inc.

NASCAR's Chicago street race course will feature plenty of obstacles, but how are drivers feeling about the upcoming historic race they're about to speed through and just how challenging is it?

There's still much uncertainty for drivers surrounding the track, even as officials on Wednesday touted their construction of the course.

Many are practicing on simulated versions in the lead-up to the race, but that has its limitations.

"The sims are great, but you just never know, okay, how consistent are they? Especially in a place where you've never raced on before, right?" driver Ryan Blaney told NBC Chicago. "There's only so much that the scan can do to try to give you all the feels."

Blaney said not knowing how big a bump or how small a bump may be is one of the more challenging parts of practicing without the actual course.

"We'll walk the track and stuff before practice the day before, but it's a lot different when you're going, you know, 180 miles an hour as opposed to walking it at two miles an hour," Blaney said. "It's kind one of those things to where, as a driver, you have to be open-minded."

Other drivers noted similar challenges.

"Nobody knows what it's going to be like," said driver Noah Gragson. "So the sim, you can get it pretty close, can't get it identical. You still fight some sim world stuff compared to your real world challenges."

Noah Gragson, a NASCAR driver, discusses his initial reaction to the street race in Chicago and the potential for attracting new fans. Gragson emphasizes the significance of bringing the race to the people and the opportunity to broaden NASCAR’s appeal. He also suggests that new fans do some research to find a driver they connect.

While the novelty of the course and the unique opportunity won't be lost on those participating, the short race will be far from a cakewalk.

"At very high speeds, you make a two-inch mistake, you pay the price," driver A.J. Allmendinger said earlier this month when asked about the difficulties of the street course.

In an event previewing the race earlier this month, former NASCAR driver and current commentator Dale Jarrett said one of the most significant challenge for drivers will be with the switches from concrete to asphalt surfaces throughout the course.

NASCAR icon Dale Earnhardt Jr. also noted the difficulties the street course presents.

"It's not a purpose-built race track, so it's got a lot of imperfections and character, which will be a good challenge, and the drivers will be excited about it," Earnhardt Jr. said.

We are just one month away from the NSACAR Chicago Street race and some racing legends talks about what will make this course so challenging. 

Drivers will race on major city streets such as Columbus Drive, Michigan Avenue and DuSable Lake Shore Drive, taking them along Lake Michigan and around the city's popular Grant Park.

But challenges aside, drivers say the historic experience will be one to remember.

"I was pretty excited for it because we haven't done anything like that before," Blaney said. "Part of me is is nervous because we've never been to a street course before, you know, and I don't know how it's going to race, but I think it's going to be a hell of an event."

More information on the upcoming street race on July 1-2 can be found here.

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