What suburbanites need to know to attend -- or avoid -- Chicago NASCAR race
If you are a local NASCAR fan, this week is leading into the BEST WEEKEND EVER. As in a mind-blowing pride of racing stars burning rubber around Grant Park.
If you don't know who Kyle Busch is and planned to drive to downtown Chicago for another reason -- not so much.
That's because stock cars will replace SUVs, buses and taxis at the NASCAR Chicago Street Race Saturday and Sunday.
The 2.2-mile racecourse with 12 turns will wrap around Michigan Avenue, plus DuSable Lake Shore, Columbus, Balbo and Jackson drives. Portions of those roads as well as other nearby streets will shut down with parking restrictions galore.
"Once the more robust street closures start ... all bets are off. We are in truly uncharted territory here, as every new closure will alter flow patterns," veteran traffic analyst Kris Habermehl said.
"It will be an interesting study in traffic dynamics and human nature -- not to mention testing commuters' patience and skill at navigation."
To accommodate the crowds, Metra and the Chicago Transit Authority are piling on trains and buses.
"For those who must drive, remember the myriad alternates to the Kennedy Expressway, which is undergoing construction," said Habermehl, CBS 2 Chicago traffic and airborne spot news reporter.
"If you can, always leave an abundance of time to get to your destination. NASCAR, combined with ongoing work on not only the Kennedy, but all manner of repairs and improvements along numerous surface streets, spells epic traffic volume."
Here's what you should know about the mega event.
• As of today, Columbus Drive between Jackson Drive and Roosevelt Road is closed.
• At 10 p.m. Wednesday, southbound DuSable Lake Shore Drive between Randolph Street and McFetridge Drive will shut down.
• As of 8 p.m. Thursday, Roosevelt Road east of Columbus Drive and northbound Michigan Avenue will be off limits.
• At 5 p.m. Friday, southbound Michigan Avenue from Balbo to Jackson drives will close, followed Saturday by northbound DuSable Lake Shore Drive between Randolph Street and McFetridge Drive.
Roads will be open by Monday, July 3.
Racing up-and-comers will compete in the Xfinity Series (The Loop 121) contest at 4 p.m. Saturday, followed by the NASCAR Cup Series (The Grant Park 220) at 4:30 p.m. Sunday. It will feature rivals Kyle Busch and Joey Logano, current Cup Series leader Marty Truex Jr., veteran Kevin Harvick and rookie Shane van Gisbergen.
Clueless about who's who? NASCAR created a guide pairing its top drivers with local celebrities.
For example, racer Christopher Bell is equivalent to Bears quarterback Justin Fields for "promise and charm," and NASCAR's Chase Elliott matches Oprah Winfrey in popular appeal.
Something else to watch will be the course itself. With race cars accelerating over 100 mph on city streets and navigating 90-degree turns, what can go wrong?
"It's not a purpose-built racetrack, so it's got a lot of imperfections and character, which will be a good challenge, and the drivers will be excited about it," legend Dale Earnhardt Jr. told NBC in early June.
"At very high speeds, you make a two-inch mistake, you pay the price," driver A.J. Allmendinger explained.
NASCAR also is sponsoring a festival in Grant Park with shows by The Chainsmokers and The Black Crows Saturday and Miranda Lambert and Charley Crockett Sunday.
For information and tickets, go to nascarchicago.com.
Aurora drivers should expect delays starting this week on Butterfield Road as IDOT crews resurface a section between Church Road to the Illinois Prairie Path. Work should wrap up by November.
One more thing
Metra BNSF Line riders can expect some changes Saturday, July 8, as trains will operate on a Sunday schedule with fewer trips to accommodate track work.