NASCAR in Joliet: Dale Jarrett holds race at Chicagoland Speedway in high regard
By Tina Akouris firstname.lastname@example.org September 12, 2013 7:04PM
ESPN NASCAR analyst Dale Jarrett | Allen Kee/ESPN Images
Updated: September 12, 2013 10:19PM
It has been three years since Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet has hosted the first of 10 races in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. And with all due deference to Loudon, N.H., a former Cup champion thinks Speedway brass and the city are doing a better job at hosting one of NASCAR’s premier events.
Dale Jarrett, who won the 1999 Cup and will be inducted into the sport’s hall of fame in 2014, said he can see the interest growing here. He acknowledges the first year was rough — an all-day rainstorm postponed the race to Monday — but subsequent races have just gotten better.
“We see a lot more involvement from the city and the people in this area,” Jarrett said. “It’s shown the last two years, that if you win this race you can win the championship (Tony Stewart in 2011 and Brad Keselowski last year).
“Even though Boston is close to New Hampshire, Chicago embraces it more and people understand the importance of the Chase. That’s not to take anything away from New Hampshire, but this is a huge market.”
NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France doesn’t seem too concerned that Sunday’s GEICO 400 is going right up against a noon Bears-Minnesota Vikings game at Soldier Field.
“It’s a very busy market this time of year, but we need to be here,” France said. “It’s not helpful, but it happens. We have certain conflicts in Dallas, too, but we’ll do fine.”
The Bears game isn’t the only distraction in town. Besides that, the BMW Championship is taking place at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest and the White Sox are home at U.S. Cellular Field.
It’s enough to make a fan’s head spin, but Jarrett is optimistic that NASCAR fans go where the races are, especially when they know this is the last time the series comes to town until next summer.
“It’s not the best scenario for sure,” Jarrett said. “I love the NFL myself, and so do a lot of people in our sport. But we understand that this time of year we go head to head and if it’s not in the same city, it’s on TV.
“I’m not sure it will keep a lot of fans who want to attend away from Chicagoland. If they are really passionate, they will come to (the track).”