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NASCAR Winston Cup Moves To The Midwest

Posted By David Treffer
Contributing Motorsports Editor, The Auto Channel

July 11, 2001

The NASCAR Winston Cup season rolls into the heart of the Midwest this week with the inaugural race at the new Chicagoland track in Joliet, Illinois. The series made two bold moves this year with adding this race and a new date in Kansas City. The interest in NASCAR was evidenced by the ticket sales. Seats were sold-out in a matter of hours at both venues. Now the series will host three races (Indianapolis, Kansas City and Jolliet) in the heart of America. NASCAR's penetration into the Midwest was not by accident. The demographics of the ticket buyers at Indianapolis was evidence enough that both of these new dates were sustainable from a capital investment point of view. NASCAR does not make a move without checking and double checking their markets. The desire to move the sport from a "southern" to "national" identification has been on going for over ten years.

The Chicagoland Speedway is a 1.5 mile oval with seating capacity for 75,000 spectators. One of the unique items that were addressed at Chicagoland was to improve the sightlines around the track. The lowest row is fourteen feet above the track. Reportedly, no seat at the speedway will have an obstructed view.

The ownership of the speedway is also a unique arrangement. The owners are listed as Raceway Associates LLC. The trio of owners is Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), International Speedway Corp (ISC) and Dale Coyne of the formerly named Route 66 Raceway.

The opening of Chicagoland Speedway also reaffirms the strength of NASCAR. Which in turn poses the question. What does this mean for the other motor sport series?

First, one can firmly conclude that the France family is going to side with the IRL (Indy Racing League) rather than CART. Not that CART will not be welcomed at ISC (International Speedway Corporation) venues but the IRL will be given first opportunity to have a date at an ISC facility. Just look at the schedule for 2002. The IRL will take over dates that were formerly traditional CART dates. Meanwhile CART is still suffering from the effects of the debacle in Texas. The two bright spots on the 2002 "possibility" CART schedule is a road race at Road Atlanta and Watkins Glen. Perhaps CART will examine the idea of running more road races. At this current time they are just trying to keep the ship afloat.

The IRL meanwhile is coming off two consecutive weekends of packed houses. The Richmond race drew a crowd of around 63,000. The race this past weekend in Kansas City drew another crowd between 60-70,000. No doubt some people in the CART home office were shaking their heads in amazement. The series bosses' have underestimated the IRL from day one. That arrogant attitude is now coming back in spades. CART should have concentrated on their product rather than continually running down the IRL.

CART should realize that they are loved more outside of the country. In Mexico City a four-day crowd of 300,000 attended the race in Monterrey, Mexico. The two races in England and Germany should draw at least 150,000 at each venue. CART has a fantastic product and they should take on Formula 1 as a worldwide series.

So NASCAR is affirming its position as the leader in North American Motorsports. Should anyone really be surprised?

Text provided by David Treffer

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