Why Did Nascar Leave Chicagoland Speedway? [Facts!]

To some, the phrase “garden state” describes a place filled with lush green landscapes and warm sunny weather. To others, it’s a synonym for “biting cold” and “icy wind.” But no matter what, when you think of New Jersey, the first thing that probably comes to mind is cars. This is due, in part, to the fact that nearly all of New Jersey is contained within a sprawling metropolis—New York City—and the fact that the State itself is best known for its auto industry.

Along with its car culture, New Jersey is also famous for its pizza, particularly the famous New Jersey–style pizza that was first offered for sale in the State in the early 1900s. Since then, the restaurant chain known as “Joe’s Pizza” (first location in central New Jersey) has made the State’s food a talking point around the world. If you’ve ever been there, chances are you’ll have heard people say things like “Oh, I’m stuffed—just look at all that pizza!” or “I could eat this whole pizza by myself.”

So, it’s pretty natural that a racing fan would head to New Jersey when the Nascar season rolls around. After all, the Brickyard is one of the most popular tracks in the State, and fans from across the country flock to the site each year for the big race. Just think: You can walk to the track, stand in the paddock, and catch a glimpse of the racing action! Or you can stay in the grandstand and follow every turn of the race from there.

But it seems that all good things must come to an end, and over the past several years, Nascar has opened up a can of worms that has gradually eaten away at its fan base in New Jersey. The problem is obvious: The stadium is just too big. The grandstands—which are the largest of their kind in the world—make it hard to see the entire track, and the distance between them makes it hard to hear the cars’ whoosh-whoosh engine noise.

Worse yet, over the years, the track has gotten progressively slower and the racing less interesting. The track was once the site of some of the best racing in the world, but these days, attendance and interest in the sport has dwindled. In 2019, for example, there were only 27,000 people at the Big Apple Showdown, which is less than half of what there used to be. And this year, Nascar canceled the Brickyard Grand Prix—the only race that regularly draws crowds larger than 27,000—due to low attendance and a “seriously flawed” concept (per Nascar).

As a result, Nascar has decided to leave the well-established track in favor of the upstart @midtownspeedway in nearby Madison. The @midtownspeedway is a much smaller track, and it doesn’t host an annual race like the Brickyard. In fact, the closest thing that it has to a yearly event is the IndyCar Challenge, which takes place every other year and is open to the public. This year will be the last time that the @midtownspeedway hosts a major Nascar event. After this year, Nascar will hold only two marquee races at the stadium: The Braveheart Marathon and The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship (also known as the “Chase”).

A Solution Or A Ripple Effect?

Now, it would be fair to say that Nascar has a bit of a history of leaving places that it outgrows. The sport migrated to Michigan in the 1960s, then to Charlotte in the 1980s and Florida in the 1990s. It’s an issue that the sport has been struggling with for years and one that it seems like it can’t seem to overcome.

But what happens when a sport that you love so much outgrows the one venue that you know and love? You have to search for a new love, as it were, and that’s what has been happening in New Jersey.

Whether you like it or not, sports are a part of life in America, and they don’t stay hidden for very long. People in New Jersey grew up with the Yankees and the Giants; they cheered for the Redskins and the Eagles. They learned to love the State and its sports all in one.

As a result, when the opportunity arose for Nascar to build a smaller, more intimate stadium and for the State to become an innovative sponsor, the sport jumped at the chance. The new owners of the @midtownspeedway saw the potential that the sport has been missing and decided to create a paradise for car lovers. The new venue is modern, sleek, and located in a bustling urban area. It features a wide range of dining options, quick transportation, and easy parking. What’s not to like?

So, while New Jersey will grieve the loss of its “granddaddy of all stadiums,” as one fan put it, it will also be excited about the benefits that the smaller and more intimate venue brings. Hopefully, Nascar will see the light and decide to come back once the novelty of the new venue wears off a bit. Or, at least, they will stop dragging their feet and begin expanding the sport to other parts of the State once they realize how much they’re missing. If not, the State will have to find a way to make the most of its smaller sports venues.

Nascar’s Growing Pains

It’s never easy losing a fan base, particularly one as big as Nascar’s. Not only do you have to find a way to replace the fans that you have, but you have to find a way to bring new fans into your fold. It has become a challenge for the sport that is as old as it is famous.

While many other sports have tried to reinvent themselves and remain fresh by introducing new rules or innovative gameplay, Nascar has tried to stay the same and grow bigger. The problem is that the more that it tries to do to keep fans, the more that it pushes them away. In 2019 alone, Nascar canceled the Brickyard Grand Prix and the Big Apple Showdown, citing low attendance and a “seriously flawed” concept (per Nascar).

This year will be the last that the @midtownspeedway hosts a major Nascar event. After this year, Nascar will hold only two marquee races at the stadium: The Braveheart Marathon and The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship (also known as the “Chase”). Fortunately, the @midtownspeedway has a solution to its attendance woes, and it comes in the form of the IndyCar Challenge, a prestigious event that is always a treat to watch. The event is open to the public and features some of the best drivers in the world. This year’s race is on October 4th and will be aired live on NBC.

The Future Of Motorsport In New Jersey

It’s pretty easy to be a Nascar fan these days, as there is always one right next to you. Whether you’re in New Jersey or some other part of the country, whenever you tune into your local NASCAR station, there will always be a car race going on. Thanks to the ever-expanding reach of the internet, fans can now follow the action from almost any location and access all the races that they want to watch whenever they want to watch them. This has led to a boom in popularity and interest in the sport as a whole, with more people learning to love cars, bikes, and other vehicles as much as the next generation of fans did back in the day.

While there will always be a place within New Jersey for the “greatest generation” of fans, it seems that today’s young adults have embraced this sport (and its wacky characters) with open arms.

Forbes has ranked the top 25 destinations for solo travel worldwide based on 12 ranking metrics. Singapore, London, and Hong Kong are headlining the list, and each one of them is a must-visit for any car fan. These are places where you can drive cars and motorcycles around the city (for free, mostly), get them detailed, and even participate in car shows. You won’t find any of these things in New Jersey, a state that prides itself on its exceptional pizza—and a lack of fast cars).

Of course, this is just one man’s opinion, but we at Road & Track magazine think that it’s well-deserved. With only two races remaining at the @midtownspeedway this year (one of which is the IndyCar Challenge, which is open to the public), it seems like a perfect time to explore one of the most historic sports venues in the United States.

Whether you’re a diehard Nascar fan or just want to learn more about the storied history of the sport, this is an opportunity not to be missed.

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