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NASCAR Village offers public race weekend experience without having to pay

Race organizers displayed different stock cars and offered a driving simulator that allowed anyone to experience The Loop 110 race.
NASCAR+fans+take+pictures+at+the+entrance+of+NASCAR+VILLAGE+in+Grant+Park+on+Saturday%2C+July+6%2C+2024.+Fans+get+to+walk+around+the+area+at+no+cost+and+get+an+exclusive+NASCAR+experience+with+a+variety+of+sponsored+booths+and+interactive+activities.+
Kaelah Serrano
NASCAR fans take pictures at the entrance of NASCAR VILLAGE in Grant Park on Saturday, July 6, 2024. Fans get to walk around the area at no cost and get an exclusive NASCAR experience with a variety of sponsored booths and interactive activities.

Fans crowded Butler Field, the location of NASCAR Village, on Saturday, July 6, as Chicago’s race weekend kicked off under blue skies.

 

It was a big difference from the soggy mess of NASCAR’s inaugural racing weekend last year.

 

NASCAR Village is a free area within the grounds of NASCAR Chicago Street Race and open to anyone to view older and Next Gen stock cars, browse small business booths, grab something to eat or just mingle with other people.

 

Anthony Lachiana, a vice president of corporate finance for a private equity firm, came to the event with his family. “We’re not really huge fans,” said Lachiana, from Orland Park. “We just came here and think it’s a great family event. It’s something to show my boy and have a good time and enjoy the summer here.”

 

About 100,000 people are expected to attend the two-day event, which features two main races and concerts.

 

Attendance fell short of that last year during an extremely rainy inaugural weekend. Torrential downpours canceled most of the concerts and shortened both day’s races.

 

Ticket prices started at $269. On Saturday, kids 12 and under got in free with a paid admission.

 

Some local residents, tourists and car enthusiasts avoided the ticket prices by staying in the free area at Butler Field, an open area in Grant Park facing the Petrillo Music Shell.

 

“I think it’s nice, trying to make it a bit more accessible because I know tickets are a bit pricey,” said Patricia Dull, a finance trader who moved to Chicago from Los Angeles.

 

NASCAR set up the Experience stage that featured Q&As, racing commentary and performances, like one from some of the members of “Six the Musical”. They also displayed different racing cars and provided a driving simulator that allowed anyone to experience the Xfinity Racing Series The Loop 110, which was the afternoon race scheduled for Saturday.

 

Amaan Hussain, a University of Illinois Chicago alum who was involved in the school’s Society of Automotive Engineers, said that those who didn’t have tickets to see the cars race could still find fun in the booths and activities. Even standing outside the race track, NASCAR fans and others get to see cars from the past.

 

“As part of the culture of NASCAR, they are bringing out cars that were raced in the past, maybe cars of the past that you get to see how that past shapes the future,” Hussain said. “You don’t just come here to see the live race, you get to see some of the past of NASCAR, all that culture being brought into this society.”

 

Jack Myers, another member of SAE, said the Saturday race and activities reminded him of Gridlife, another car event with music and vendors. “It’s nice to see an entire community come together as one, and just enjoy cars. It’s something that really unites a lot of people here,” Myers said.

 

Samar Sharma, also a member of SAE, said that having NASCAR is a good way to bring people together, even if they aren’t interested in cars.

 

“These big events are ways to get a whole bunch of different groups with different interests, and maybe not all of them are here for the cars, maybe some of them are here for the food or drinks, maybe the music,” Sharma said. “There’s a little bit of something for everyone, so you don’t have to be just into the cars, you can come here and have a good time.”

 

Nelida Childers, a resident of Bronzeville, got to experience NASCAR for the first time with her son who won an achievement award from school that included two-day passes and reserved seating. “There’s different information, there’s activities to do,” Childers said. “They’ll get to see the excitement of the crowd.” 

 

Those who attended the event today ranged from all different ages, backgrounds and interests. Kenny Wolney, a pipefitter for Elk Grove Village, is a regular eventgoer and wanted to see fast cars while his girlfriend, Reganne Massoth, a student at North Central College, wanted to see The Chainsmokers perform. 

 

“There’s an ideology around NASCAR fans, but it’s good to see it down here now,” Wolney said. “You got everyone down here.”

 

He said that NASCAR attracts diverse groups of people. “This, it’s free, it brings everyone together. There’s no discrimination in it; it is what it is. That’s why I think it’s cool, there’s a whole community.”

 

Copy edited by Doreen Abril Albuerne-Rodriguez 



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About the Contributors
Kaelah Serrano
Kaelah Serrano, Photojournalist
kserrano@columbiachronicle.com   Kaelah Serrano is a junior photojournalism major. She has covered music festivals, campus art exhibitions and metro parades and protests. Serrano joined the Chronicle in January 2023.   Hometown: Chicago, Illinois