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Monday, May 29, 2023

'It's gotten the most attention': See what Joe Gibbs has to say about Chicago's NASCAR races

HUNTERSVILLE, NC — One of NASCAR’s most prominent owners is enthusiastic and intrigued by the new stock car event that’s coming to Chicago in July.

“Everybody’s excited about it,” said Joe Gibbs, the owner of Joe Gibbs Racing, when asked about those in the sport’s thoughts on the Chicago Street Race when talking with WGN News Now as part of a discussion on his team’s effort to aid veterans this weekend. “It has got, I would say, the most attention of any race this year.”

Gibbs will have teams in both races on the 2.2-mile street course – The Loop 121 Xfinity race on Saturday, July 1, and the Grant Park 220 Cup Series event on Sunday, July 2. Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Ty Gibbs, and Christopher Bell will compete in the top series for the team Sunday with John Hunter Nemechek and Sammy Smith driving in the Xfinity race.

For the veteran Gibbs, his drivers, crew chiefs, and pit crews, tackling the streets of Chicago will be like no other race on the 2023 schedule. It’s certainly different than when he put cars on the 1.5-mile tri-oval at Joliet’s Chicagoland Speedway from 2001-2019, which is similar to a lot of NASCAR’s tracks around the country.

“We’re normally are dealing with racetracks that we go to over and over again. This will be a completely new experience for us, and I’ve gotta tell you, I don’t think anybody really knows what’s gonna happen, who could be the favorite,” said Gibbs. “So I think this is going to be an exciting time for us, I think for the city, too. Hopefully, Chicago’s gonna be excited about it. It will be fun for us.

“I think everybody’s behind this, and I think it’s going to be a huge deal for us.”

Since the track isn’t even set up yet, and won’t be until the week of the races, Gibbs and his team have already sent people to Chicago to gather what they can about the course ahead of the event.

“We’ve already had groups that are going there kinda analyzing everything about setting up the race track through the city and then all the other things that are going to go along with that. It’s going to be a unique thing for us,” said Gibbs. “If you think about that, our drivers, our crew chiefs, everybody is looking at this and going ‘Oh my gosh, I have no idea.’ The racetrack has been set up, but you can imagine that we normally go to a race track and all we’re going to be doing is turning left at the race track and all of our circle stuff. We do road racing, but this is going to be in the city.

“Hopefully everybody there is as excited as we are about going there. It’s going to be a great celebration weekend.”

At the moment, however, Gibbs is focused on this weekend’s events in Charlotte, including the Coca-Cola 600, one of the iconic races on the Cup Series schedule. As part of the Memorial Day weekend, Joe Gibbs Racing along with their longtime sponsor Interstate Batteries are raising money for Semper Fi and America’s Fund.

Their goal is to find ways to help retired servicemen and women who’ve suffered service-connected disabilities. As part of this effort, Bell’s No. 20 Toyota Camry will race with a military-themed paint scheme in the Coca-Cola 600 that will also include the charity’s logo.

“I don’t know if I could speak the words, honestly,” said Army Sergeant Jason Smith, who joined Gibbs during the interview with WGN News Now when asked about the efforts by Joe Gibbs Racing for The Fund. “It’s amazing to have people in your corner people that have never met you, people that really care what’s going on with the veteran community.”

You can see more from Gibbs and Smith in their interview with WGN News Now’s Larry Hawley in the video above.

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