Three months before the green flag turns Grant Park into a pop-up urban racecourse, the NASCAR promotional engine is revving up for the inaugural Chicago Street Race.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois was named a founding partner Tuesday for the racing and entertainment event July Fourth weekend, joining McDonald’s as a major Chicago sponsor.
That will put the Blue Cross and Blue Shield brand at the Buckingham Fountain start/finish line and throughout the 12-turn, 2.2-mile racecourse as top NASCAR drivers navigate closed-off streets lined with temporary fences, grandstands and hospitality suites.
The state’s largest health insurer will also have official presenting, marketing and promotional rights for the event, which includes the televised Grant Park 220 Cup Series race on July 2, and an Xfinity Series race on July 1.
Blue Cross announced the partnership Tuesday from its offices at Aon Center overlooking Grant Park, which for one weekend will be turned into a temporary Talladega Superspeedway, albeit with more iconic scenery and decidedly lower top speeds.
“The NASCAR Chicago Street Race Weekend is taking place on the doorstep of our headquarters building and we expect it to be an exciting addition to Chicago’s sports legacy,” Stephen Harris, president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, said in a news release.
Chicago-based McDonald’s was announced as the event’s first founding partner last week.
NASCAR anticipates 100,000 attendees will partake in the weekend festival that also includes full-length concerts ranging from country to electronic dance, headlined by Miranda Lambert, The Chainsmokers and The Black Crowes.
Two-day general admission tickets, which include the races and the concerts, went on sale last month, starting at $269.
In November, NASCAR began selling two-day reserved tickets starting at $465. Premium club seats run a lot higher. At the top of the list are temporary hospitality suites perched above the pit road, where tickets for the President’s Paddock Club cost more than $3,000 each.
“There’s been strong demand, with 60% of the ticket sales coming from outside the marketplace,” a NASCAR spokesperson said Tuesday.
Florida-based NASCAR, which became a private company upon completion of its $2 billion merger with International Speedway Corp. in 2019, does not disclose ticket sales, but said several sections of reserved seats in Chicago are sold out.
NASCAR struck a three-year deal to transform the Grant Park environs into a temporary racecourse, paying the Chicago Park District an escalating permit fee, and a share of admission and concession sales.
The course will start on Columbus Drive in front of Buckingham Fountain, taking in stretches of DuSable Lake Shore Drive and South Michigan Avenue. NASCAR has full access to the racecourse area for nine days prior to and three days after the event.
NASCAR is working with the city to finalize a traffic and event management plan to present to the City Council in the coming weeks.