2023 NASCAR Schedule: What must be accomplished for Chicago, North Wilkesboro races

By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports activities NASCAR Author

NASCAR‘s two new Cup venues for 2023 will likely be intriguing to say the least.

The primary will likely be North Wilkesboro (NC) Speedway on Might 21, because the NASCAR All-Star Race strikes there for the observe’s first Cup occasion since 1996. Six weeks later, NASCAR will race on the streets of Chicago in its first try at a avenue course for its greatest stars.

The total 2023 nationwide sequence schedules had been introduced on Wednesday.

NASCAR’s observe report with new occasions has been robust lately. The Charlotte highway course has gone higher than anticipated — it is not the best of highway programs, however the racing has been strong, and you’ll see the whole course from a seat within the grandstands — and the Conflict, with the momentary observe constructed on the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, went manner higher than anybody might’ve predicted.

Nonetheless, NASCAR, which spearheaded the Coliseum observe and can function the Chicago avenue course, and Speedway Motorsports, which has Charlotte and North Wilkesboro amongst its observe portfolio, have an enormous problem on their fingers in attempting to repeat their previous successes.

NASCAR lately introduced that Julie Giese, the president of Phoenix Raceway, will relocate to Chicago after this 12 months’s championship race to function president of the undertaking there.

Giese oversaw observe enchancment tasks at Richmond, Talladega and Phoenix. She is each a individuals particular person and somebody who is aware of the way to take care of allowing and politics, which ought to show beneficial.

“We predict it will be one of the vital anticipated sporting occasions in 2023,” Giese stated of the Chicago race. “However we need to be aware of the group. We perceive we’re racing in downtown Chicago — there are residents close by.

“We need to do it with as restricted quantity of disruption as we are able to to them. I’ll be spending a number of time on this market locally round Grant Park. And I sit up for listening to from them and attempting to beat what these considerations are.”

NASCAR declares avenue course race in Chicago

NASCAR announced the first-ever street course in Chicago as part of the 2023 Cup Series schedule.

Here are the key parts of the agreement between NASCAR and the city, obtained through a public records request with the city parks department:

— The agreement has NASCAR paying the city $500,000 in 2023, $550,000 in 2024 and $605,000 in 2025. The city also gets $2 per ticket.

— The city gets 15% of NASCAR’s “net commissions” of merchandise and concession sales the first year, 20% in 2024 and 25% in 2025. “Net commissions” is not defined, but NASCAR’s commissions on merchandise are typically 20% or less when taking into account material costs and costs paid to teams and drivers.

— NASCAR must reimburse any food vendors who normally work the areas of the course and will be displaced at a rate of 105% of their typical daily take and pay for any restoration costs for damage to the city streets.

— NASCAR can start building structures three weeks prior to the event and start working on staging and other areas nine days prior.

— NASCAR must hire a third party to “produce” the event and work with the city. It has not yet revealed the company it will hire for that effort.

— The limit on attendance is 100,000 people for the entire footprint (including team members, media, etc). NASCAR also gets to use the bandshell at Grant Park for concerts.

“We’ve talked extensively about concerts each night following the races — having that festival experience, Chicago foods, Chicago arts and culture, just celebrating what Chicago is,” Giese said.

She hopes to create a festival atmosphere while providing those not familiar with NASCAR a chance to learn about the sport.

“From the experience perspective, making sure that we’re being mindful of the education process and having some of those experiences within the footprint that help people understand what they’re about to see, what is going on with the race and what to expect will be important,” Giese said.

While the Chicago street course will have to be “built” as far as walls, fencing and grandstands, the North Wilkesboro track needs to be renovated.

The question is how much renovation can happen by May? As part of the American Rescue Plan, North Wilkesboro Speedway received $18 million through the North Carolina state budget. The North Carolina general assembly has agreed to grant an additional $4 million for improvements for the 2023 All-Star Race.

Because it is part of federal funds, Wilkes County (NC) has to approve the contract for improvements to the track. The county has already approved to negotiate a contract with Choate Construction Company.

According to the company’s bid, obtained through a public records request to the county, the scope of work will include:

— Repairing the track walls and installing new fencing. A Speedway Motorsports spokesman said they will be adding SAFER (steel-and-foam energy-reducing) Barrier, which is standard for tracks where NASCAR races.

— Repairing the existing grandstands and making them ADA compliant

— Adding new track lighting

— Repairing and rebuilding the suites

— Constructing amenity buildings, storage structures, offices, etc., including a garage canopy for teams to work under, an infield care center, a media center, a drivers lounge and a building for tire providers

— Installing new water and sewer lines

— Adding site grading and paving

NASCAR Home Tracks: North Wilkesboro Speedway

NASCAR Home Tracks: North Wilkesboro Speedway

Andrew Doud of “NASCAR Race Hub” takes a trip to North Wilkesboro to learn the story behind one of NASCAR’s original tracks.

The caveat to all that: The bid proposal is for the work to be done by April 9, 2024. The actual project construction timeline is 170 days. The race is 248 days away, so some of the work could get done by then, depending on how much the pre-construction period — listed in the proposal as 215 days — can be shortened.

A speedway spokesman said there was no update on what will be done before May, noting that Speedway Motorsports officials are still working with Choate, which has done several projects for NASCAR and its tracks.

The track currently seats 18,000, and if Speedway Motorsports wants to increase capacity, that will be a challenge with just one two-lane road in and out of the facility and limitations on parking capacity. Any road improvements are likely years away, though Speedway Motorsports will try to develop park-and-ride and camp-and-ride systems for the event.

“It’s pretty much impossible to assume that any improvements are going to be made in the ability to get in and out of that facility, traffic-wise,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Tuesday on his Dale Jr. Download podcast.

Earnhardt has championed the return to North Wilkesboro and said fans should be ready to come early and deal with traffic frustration. It will be a great return-to-roots atmosphere, but some of the amenities NASCAR fans are used to won’t be ready for 2023.

“That was a massive frustration and a challenge for a lot of people during the CARS Tour event we just had there. … There’s not a lot that can be done to improve that experience,” Earnhardt said.

“Don’t expect, don’t assume that’s going to be a whole lot better this time around. There’s just not enough time to be able to make adjustments to the system itself or include new access or anything like that.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. on returning to North Wilkesboro

Dale Earnhardt Jr. on returning to North Wilkesboro

“I almost wanted to cry. It was so emotional,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said of his experience racing again at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

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What to watch for

Saturday brings an elimination race at Bristol, and many likely remember Kevin Harvick’s anger at Chase Elliott after the race a year ago.

There’s no guarantee that anyone will get that angry this time, but there will be hurt feelings.

The big question is whether this will be like other short-track races with the Next Gen car, meaning it will be more difficult to pass than in previous events. With so much on the line and drivers knowing this car can handle a little bit more beating and banging, don’t be surprised if the bump-and-runs come earlier and more frequently.

thinking out loud

What will happen to Tyler Reddick? Richard Childress said Tuesday that he will do what he is contractually obligated to do: field a chartered car for Reddick.

Whether Childress leases a charter, buys a charter or makes a deal to field a car for another chartered team is still to be determined. With the limited details, it appears a buyout for Reddick is still possible.

With Reddick’s team already assigned to Kyle Busch for next year, it seems like a waste to have Reddick at RCR. And it would be better for him to do one year somewhere else, rather than being a “third” car at RCR. The best option would be for him to start at 23XI a year earlier than his 2024 date, and there are buyout proposals being worked on.

It’s all a bit of a shame. Reddick is a talent, and he would’ve raced hard for RCR. But with the team set to move on and build with Busch, it’d be best if Reddick and RCR cut ties after this season.

social spotlight

they said it

“When I was up there with Kyle and we first started talking and we talked about championships and we talked about winning races, I looked at him in his eye, and I seen that look in Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s eye that he’s hungry. We are going to win. I’ve seen that look before.” — Richard Childress

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 @bobpockrassand join the FOX Sports activities NASCAR Publication with Bob Pockrass.

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