The NASCAR races scheduled for next July at Chicagoland Speedway are to be held at night. The installation of a multimillion-dollar lighting plant at the 1.52-mile Joliet track has begun, track president Matt Alexander said Tuesday.
The NASCAR races scheduled for next July at Chicagoland Speedway are to be held at night. The installation of a multimillion-dollar lighting plant at the 1.52-mile Joliet track has begun, track president Matt Alexander said Tuesday. “Nighttime events have that big-event feel,” Alexander said. “This has to do with delivering the best experience to our fans.” The aura surrounding night racing, combined with cooler temperatures on a July evening, could create more fans. This year’s combined two-weekend NASCAR-IRL ticket package didn’t sell out beforehand, the first time it didn’t do so since the track opened in 2001. The track has 75,000 seats. In 2008, the Busch Series race is slated for the evening of Friday, July 11, with the Sprint Cup race the following night. Television also factors into the change. Chicagoland’s USG Sheetrock 400 is the last of six races carried in a package by TNT, which was involved with the negotiations to move the races to the evening. It will give TNT two night races, the other the Pepsi 400 at Daytona. Alexander said adding lights to the track had always been under consideration, but not until International Speedway Corp. bought the 62.5 percent of the track owned by Indianapolis Motor Speedway and founders of Route 66 Raceway was the capital available. “Not including the gridding, it’ll cost between $7 million and $10 million for the track itself,” Alexander said. “For the parking lots, we’ll be bringing in generators on a temporary basis.” Permitting with the city of Joliet has already been completed. Testing of the lighting system is expected by next June at the latest, Alexander said. There’s an added benefit for the track beyond simply running at night. So far, while it has rained on a qualifying day, no race has been adversely affected by rain. The potential for a rainout has always been there, but with lights, a delayed race could be run well into the night. Lights also allow the Indy Racing League, which is to run its season-ending race in the afternoon of Sunday, Sept. 7, to finish the race that evening if necessary rather than come back the following day. Chicagoland Speedway becomes the 10th NASCAR-affiliated track to add lights. Others include Daytona International Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway. More racing news is at www.dailysouthtown.com/sports.