It is a big week for NASCAR as they prepare for this Sunday’s Grant Park 220. It will be the first-ever street race contested in the NASCAR Cup Series.
There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding this historic event. For Illinois sportsbooks, it is untraveled waters. But NASCAR hopes this event will drive new fans into the sport and help gain some momentum in the Illinois sports betting scene.
NASCAR hopes street race will be a hit for Illinois sports bettors
Over the past few years, NASCAR has dived head-first into the world of sports betting. The organization has partnered with numerous sportsbooks at several of its racetracks around the country. However, the sport is heading into uncharted territory with this street race in Chicago.
NASCAR’s managing director of sports betting, Joe Solosky, said NASCAR is really excited to bring a flagship event like the Grant Park 220 to a legal betting market like Illinois. He spoke with PlayIllinois about how this unique event is an excellent opportunity for the sport to grow in the Illinois sports betting world, thanks to the market’s growing maturity.
“We definitely do expect to see some activation from betting partners at the race,” said Solosky. “It coincides with a time where a lot of the sportsbooks are opening up retail locations at venues in the city. So, it’s an opportunity for them in front of a different fanbase to expose their brand to others.”
So far in 2023, NASCAR is doing pretty well in Illinois. Between February and April this year, NASCAR betting in Illinois saw a 20% increase in handle year-over-year. That is the second-highest growth across any sport. It was also higher than football’s growth (13%.) Meanwhile, sports like basketball and hockey saw a year-over-year handle decrease.
All of NASCAR’s sports betting partners are utilizing hospitality in some capacity at The Grant Park 220. NASCAR officials say they view sports betting as another way to engage with their fans. However, they also see it as a way to draw new fans to the sport. They believe The Chicago Street Race will be similar. An estimated 70% of the fans who have bought tickets have never been to a race before.
“This provides a way to watch drivers in a completely new environment,” said Solosky. “Along Lake Shore Drive, along the backdrop of the skyline of Chicago, I think it’s just going to put NASCAR is a whole different light.”
Chicago Street Race Betting odds
While this track should race somewhat similar to a road course, everything from the road surface to the angles of the turns are totally unknown variables, leaving this race’s field in flux. Most sportsbooks have five drivers under +1000 odds to win. That is something you pretty much never see in this sport.
|Driver||FanDuel Sportsbook||DraftKings Sportsbook||BetMGM Sportsbook||Caesars Sportsbook|
|Martin Truex Jr.||+650||+650||+700||+650|
Odds listed as of June 29, 2023.
Chase Elliott is the favorite in the 2023 Grant Park 220 odds, as arguably the most accomplished road racer in NASCAR today. There have been two road course races in 2023 so far. Tyler Reddick won at Circuit of the Americas in March, while Martin Truex Jr. won at Sonoma Raceway earlier in June. Meanwhile, Larson has also built a reputation as one of NASCAR’s best road course racers.
But this will be unlike any road course these drivers have ever seen on this level as they race through the streets of Chicago.
The green flag will drop at 4:30 p.m. CST on Sunday. The Grant Park 220 is scheduled to go 100 laps around the Chicago Street Course. The track’s start and finish line is on South Columbus Drive in front of Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park. The 12-turn, 2.14-mile course will also have sections on famed Chicago streets like Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue.