Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet will host the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this weekend. | Courtesy of Chicagoland Speedway
Updated: July 17, 2012 10:07PM
Even if you don’t know a lug nut from a chestnut, there is something for you at Chicagoland Speedway this weekend, July 21-22.
Saturday and Sunday mark the first big weekend at the raceway south of Joliet. The Ansell ActivArmr 150 at the 1.5-mile oval track will be at 4 p.m. Saturday, starting a doubleheader with that evening’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event.
Sunday’s racing action features the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
“It’s going to be a fun, memorable experience,” said Chicagoland Speedway president Scott Paddock. “We’ve got the return of night racing to the Speedway. We didn’t have any night races last year. Night racing is really big with our fans; when you see those cars go at those speeds under the lights, it’s very exciting.”
While Saturday night will bring night racing back to the Speedway, and Sunday’s Nationwide Series will be watched nationwide, he said.
“We’re excited about that because it’s one of only two weekends where the Sprint Cup Series is off, so our event will be the premier motorsports event in the country that weekend,” he said. “We’ve already got commitments from Kyle Busch to attend, so I think we’ll have some Spring Cup regulars in the event. But it also marks the first of three visits from Danica Patrick, and she brings in a whole new segment of fans into the sport.”
Additionally, extreme sports superstar Travis Pastrano has made NASCAR stockcar racing his new challenge, and will be participating in Sunday’s Nationwide STP 300.
“I think there’s a lot of star power in there for our Nationwide Series event,” he said.
“NASCAR is all about access, and in this day and age, that is what fans what. The at-home viewing experience is certainly a much better product than it was even 10 years ago … but I would still argue that nothing competes with the on-site experience because it delivers the emotions that you just won’t get on television,” he said. “And the access — we’re going to have autograph sessions where literally you as a fan will get access to these NASCAR stars. You can access the pits and get up close to the action. This sport is all about action and access. That’s what really cool about the weekend.”
Here’s the lowdown on NASCAR weekend.
The Chicagoland Speedway is located on Illinois 53 and Laraway Road, south of Joliet.
Parking is free, and fans are allowed to bring coolers into the grandstand. There are trams to take you from the campgrounds and outer parking lots up to the main gate and ticket office.
Speaking of tickets, you can buy a ticket for Sunday’s race only or a package for the whole weekend. Children 12 and under are free in select sections. Check Chicagolandspeedway.com for prices, or call (888) 629-7223.
Roughly 35 percent of the folks who attend the races are from out of state. Chicagoland Speedway boasts four camping options to fit any style or budget, from RV with electric to tent with no electric.
If you’d rather save some cash, a quick Google search shows that there are plenty of campgrounds around the Speedway as well. Many all offer amenities like free Wi-Fi, free dump station and garbage removal, free water, ice, firewood and sewer pump.
What to do
Unlike other sports, race fans are in it for the long haul.
“We have people that will be camping with us from Thursday to Sunday, that have planned vacations around our event,” Paddock said. “Even those who just show up on race day, they’re here for 12 hours and they’re looking for things to do. It’s not just about the three-hour race; it’s about all the other activities that come into play.”
Fans know that the place to be before races is Champion’s Park, a fan-interactive zone which features various corporate displays, the main stage, monuments to past race winners, a Miller Lite bar and more.
Champion’s Park also hosts our Kids’ Zone; which includes story time with the drivers, entertainment from Radio Disney, face painting, inflatable bounce houses and games.
The Checkered Flag Fan Zone is located inside Hospitality Village near the main entrance gate, Merchandise Midway and Champions Park. It will feature appearances by defending NASCAR Nationwide Series champion, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., on Saturday and Illinois natives Danica Patrick and Justin Allgaier on Sunday. A Checkered Flag Fan Zone weekend package will run you $169. It includes unlimited soda and water, three beer tickets each day, a lunch buffet and snacks, a pit tour and more.
Candlebox, the 1990s-era rock band, will perform at noon Sunday as part of the STP 300 pre-race activities.
“We recognize that our fans are here to see exciting racing action, and we’ll certainly have a lot of racing fans, but we’ll also see a healthy contingent of fans that are intrigued by this whole NASCAR phenomenon and the really festive, electric atmosphere that these race weekends provide,” he said.
What to watch
Oh yeah, we’re here to watch racing.
At 4 p.m. Saturday is the Ansell ActivArmr 150 (that’s 100 laps and 150 miles). At 7 p.m. is the American Ethanol 225 (150 laps, 225 miles).
Sunday at 2 p.m. is the STP 300 (200 laps, 300 miles). Sprint Cup driver Kyle Busch will join Nationwide stars Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier, Austin Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. This race will feature the sports up-and-coming stars, including local heroes Patrick and Allgaier.