May 23, 2024

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Fans are frustrated with poor communication

Fans are frustrated with poor communication

While the rain and thunderstorms were expected to continue through the afternoon, a few die-hard NASCAR fans waited outside the entry gates to the Sunday morning NASCAR street race, wondering why they weren’t allowed inside to hide under the event’s large tents.

“Even when it’s raining, they let you in, take cover under the stands,” said Indiana State’s Matthew McGivney, who said he was surprised there was less interest in waiting fans than at other NASCAR events. “It’s like a lack of coordination here. I know it’s first year and all. Look, I’ve done a lot of racing. Disorganized.”

The storms that caused the NASCAR Xfinity Series race to be postponed Saturday moved to Sunday, causing more delays and uncertainty as employees struggled to communicate with fans about the future of the historic street race.

The morning was supposed to start with the resumption of the Xfinity race, which was interrupted on Saturday by lightning. The start of the race on Sunday was quickly delayed when torrential rain left race technicians holed up in their trailers and fans waiting in cafes on Michigan Avenue. Standing water covers parts of the path.

The main event — the NASCAR Cup Series Grant Park 220 — is scheduled to begin at 4:05 p.m.

Earlier in the week, at a news conference with the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications, NASCAR Chicago Street Course President Julie Giese said the cars had a “wet weather package” that allowed the race to continue racing in the rain. Cars cannot race in lightning or during a flood.

“I’m more optimistic about the second race. I think this first race is going to be a wash,” said Chris Howard of Oletha, Kansas, noting that he spent about $400 cash on seeing that race plus points for his hotel stay.

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Northeast Cook County is under a flash flood warning until 3:15 p.m., with officials advising that nonessential travel be avoided until the waters recede. Officials said roads and streets could be flooded, with rain hitting some parts of the province. Heavy rain fell throughout the morning and into the afternoon, reducing visibility on the highways. A few strong to severe thunderstorms were possible south of I-80 with the risk of hail and damaging wind gusts.

Many race fans said they were frustrated by the race coordinators’ lack of clarity because the gates remained closed for nearly two hours after they were originally supposed to open and parachutes were not allowed in.

“They’re doing everything they can to connect with the fans,” Atlanta native Jack Brinson said while waiting under a cellophane coat. “I kind of wish at this point they could let us all in…and let’s stay there until we’re safe.”

NASCAR fans walk along a rainy Michigan Avenue on July 2, 2023, before the gates open for NASCAR racing events on the streets of Grant Park.
A NASCAR racetrack seen from Michigan Avenue on Sunday, July 2, 2023, before the gates open for NASCAR street racing events at Grant Park.

Someone asked if they give out gowns. The reply was no.

The delays made some wonder about the financial implications of the next several hours.

I hope it’s not cancelled,” Chicagoan Labdhi Jain said after posing for a photo with her sister and mom. At the same time, you see a positive in the alternative. “I think if the race is canceled we will get compensation. But if it doesn’t then we don’t.”

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Michelle Backus and her son wore matching animal umbrellas when they left class to dry.

Both are from Chicago and bought VIP tickets for the weekend to celebrate her son’s 11th birthday – Denny Hamlin drives the #11 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing and is also his favorite racer.

“When things were running smoothly, it was incredibly good,” Backus said. “So you just know, you can’t control the weather and that’s disappointing.”

This weekend has been one of the “most expensive things we’ve ever done,” Backus said, but they hope the race continues this afternoon. Besides the rain, they said this weekend had more positives than negatives.

Today it’s just kind of null and void. You can’t really judge it because there’s nothing you do,” she said.

Backus said the connection from NASCAR should be better. She said the many jurisdictions in the Chicago Park District, the Chicago Police Department and NASCAR officials made the day frustrating.

“There were all these different levels of people, and no one was getting to one message,” Backus said. “So everyone was telling you different things.”

NASCAR needs the Park District to sign off on a possible postponement to Monday. The Park District could not be reached for comment.

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