What about Chicago?

 by Paul Josephson
January 23, 2003

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If the track is near Meigs Field and Soldiers Field, here is a possible layout

With all the talk lately about possible tracks in other cities, and now the rumors about a Chicago street race, I created a fantasy CART track for a race in downtown Chicago along the lakefront (yes, I'm bored as most of you are in January). 

A race at a track like this COULD have happened about 20 years ago when Jane Byrne was mayor.  There were some talks about having a race through downtown Chicago, but it never occurred.

Having a race along Chicago's treasured lakefront could have provided great views.  It would have been something like the Monaco of the Midwest with all the boats in Chicago Harbor and the views of Lake Michigan.  TV viewing would show what a great city Chicago is to about 50 million worldwide viewers.  The City would benefit from increase tourism because the race would be like a 2.5 hour advertisement for the City.  Also, the City would benefit from increased tax revenue due to increased hotel, restaurant, and concessions revenue.

The track in the top photo is a possible layout down at Soldiers Field and across from Meigs Field.  However, the basis of my article is based on the track layout below, which runs in the area of Grant park, a perfect location for fans and for erecting grandstands.

The track I designed couldn't have existed 20 years ago exactly in the way I show it because several improvements have been made to streets (gradual S-curve on LSD at the top of the map, upper and lower street levels, and the  Roosevelt Rd. configuration at the bottom of the lower map).  However, it could happen now with minimal disruption to traffic and allowances for access to the museums at the south end of the track.  Michigan Ave., a main thoroughfare would remain open.

Some challenges for the CART drivers would have been going in and out of sunshine (see dotted portions of the track; for example, all of Randolph St. is covered by an upper level) and sharp corners with reversed cambers at Turn 5.  The fun parts would have been the long, wide straight-aways.

If the track is near Grant Park, here is a possible layout

Anyway, here it is.  The green is my proposed, counter-clockwise track (3.1 miles) with pits in red and an extended track in yellow (3.6 miles).  The shorter track (all green) would be more viable because fewer streets would have to be closed for the race.  The track works clockwise as well, perhaps even better.

The Paddock would be on Jackson, Balbo, and the area around Buckingham Fountain.  Colored dots represent grandstands.

I've provided lots of details for Chicagoans:

0.0 miles - Start/Finish on Lake Shore Drive (4 lanes wide, northbound) at Buckingham Fountain; small grandstands on both sides of the Start/Finish (trees limit the construction of more extensive stands on east side of LSD); pits occupy the 4 southbound lanes of LSD
0.1 miles - At Jackson Dr.; small grandstands on left
0.3 miles - At Monroe Dr. (pit out); grandstands on Southbound LSD north of Monroe looking south (cars coming straight at the grandstands before track curves east); the safety runoff at the end of this straightaway would be to continue on LSD
0.5 miles - Turn 1 - Exit to lower Wacker Dr. (2 lanes wide)
0.6 miles - Turn 2 - Sharp left onto lower Randolph Dr. (3 lanes wide); raised upper Randolph is above; runoff would continue straight ahead on ramp
1.0 miles - Turn 3 - Left onto lower Columbus Dr. and re-emerge into sunshine; 3 lanes wide; slight curve to the right and then a slight downhill to Monroe; runoff for Turn 3 would be straight ahead on lower Columbus
1.3 miles - At Monroe (start of straightaway for 0.3 miles); grandstands on northbound Columbus, north of Monroe
1.4 miles - At Jackson, Columbus becomes 8 lanes wide
1.6 miles - Turn 4 - Right onto Congress Parkway (actual turn would have to be widened slightly for safety reasons); 4 lanes wide; slight rise on paved bridge over railroad tracks, then a quick, sharp left-hander (reverse camber) onto Congress Plaza Parkway for about 30 yards; runoff for Turn 4 would be an exit chute on the left that would continue on Columbus

Note all the boats on the lake.  With the adjacent Grant Park, it's a perfect place for a street course.  Super wide streets, room to erect bleachers and a pit lane. a fast track.  What more could you want?

1.7 miles - Turn 5 - Left to go back onto Congress Parkway eastbound (4 lanes); slight blind rise on small paved bridge over railroad tracks before road becomes level again before Columbus;  runoff would curve to left, ending at Michigan Ave.
1.8 miles - Turn 6 - Right onto Columbus, south towards Roosevelt (start of straightaway for 0.6 miles); grandstands on Columbus would have a great view as cars come down Columbus and make the turns around Congress Parkway; grandstands would continue all along Columbus down to Roosevelt Rd. (this reminds me a little of Long Beach, but without the palm trees!!)
2.0 miles - At Balbo Drive
2.3 miles - Turn 7 - Left onto a new short road that would have to be built through Grant Park to avoid cutting off access to the museums on Roosevelt (3 lanes wide).
2.4 miles - Turn 8 - Curve back onto LSD heading north
2.4 miles - Start of longest straightaway - 1.2 miles on LSD heading north (4 lanes wide).
2.9 miles - Left pit entrance at Balbo
3.1 miles - Finish Line at Buckingham Fountain

Alternative Route
0.0 miles - Start/Finish Line on LSD at Buckingham Fountain
0.5 miles - Turn 1 - Exit to lower Wacker (2 lanes wide)
0.6 miles - At Randolph continue going straight (2-lane), slight rise to lower Wacker
0.9 miles - Turn 2A - Left onto lower Wacker on westbound of 3-lane, divided road; grandstands on eastbound 3 lanes; track would remain open to the sky for a few hundred yards before upper Wacker starts above track; runoff might have been a little tricky here
1.2 miles - Turn 3A - Left onto lower Columbus 3 lanes wide (upper roads above - tunnel effect); slight dip in road between Lake St. and Randolph; runoff would have been to continue on lower Wacker
1.4 miles - At lower Randolph
1.7 miles - At Monroe
2.0 miles - Turn 4 - Right onto westbound Congress Parkway
2.1 miles - Turn 5 - Left to go back onto eastbound Congress Parkway
2.3 miles - Turn 6 - Right onto Columbus (start of straightaway for 0.6 miles)
2.5 miles - At Balbo
2.9 miles - Turn 7 - Left onto new short road in Grand Park.
2.9 miles - Turn 8 - Rejoin  LSD
2.9 miles - Start of longest straightaway - 1.2 miles on LSD
3.4 miles - Left pit entrance at Balbo
3.6 miles - Finish Line at Buckingham Fountain

Another alternative would be to eliminate the right-left-right at Congress Parkway and continue straight on Columbus.  This would have shortened the track by 0.3 miles and would have made the straightaway even longer on Columbus Drive (1.4 miles in my original plan or 1.7 miles using the alternative).

The author can be contacted at feedback@autoracing1.com

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