NASCAR’s first Chicago street race will roar into town over the Fourth of July weekend, with cars zooming across the city on a 2.2-mile course on July 1 and 2. In typical form, locals are split on their reaction to the affair, raising concerns over restricted lakefront access, noise, and the inevitable traffic gridlock that will follow, all amid “very unhealthy” air quality levels due to a blanket of smoke from Canadian wildfires. Updates on air quality are available online.
The American auto-racing giant, however, is still expected to draw thousands of fans who plan to eat, drink, and cheer their way through the inaugural event — though it’s hard to imagine that many will spring for a $63 six-pack of Busch Light from its beverage tents.
Luckily, there’s a better way. Here are four Chicago spots to celebrate all things NASCAR:
NASCAR Chicago x Lou Malnati’s at Grant Park, The Loop
Deep-dish pizza staple Lou Malnati’s is an official partner for the NASCAR Chicago Street Race, and as such has woven itself into the fabric of the festivities with hefty slices of cheese, sausage, and pepperoni available at the event’s main beer tent and food pavilion in Grant Park. For the truly devoted, the brand will also host a Lou Malnati’s Fan Zone tent stocked with swag, stickers, and temporary tattoos, plus a chance to win free pizza for a year (either at Lou’s restaurants or shipped nationwide). NASCAR Chicago x Lou Malnati’s, 9 a.m. to close Saturday, July 1, and Sunday, July 2.
NASCAR Pit Party at Millennium Hall, 11 N. Michigan Avenue, Millennium Park
Located just steps from the NASCAR Chicago Street Race course, this food hall in the Loop will feature front-row seats to all the fanfare over the weekend with floor-to-ceiling TVs broadcasting the race, a massive Double Clutch beer garden, giveaways, and raffles with prizes. There will also be a special “pit menu” from Chicago chef Michael “Wally” Wallach with casual comfort food like barbecue brisket, pulled pork, and “pit stop” beans, according to a rep. Attendees can wash it all down with margaritas, Motor Mules, and Pit Stop punch. Millennium Hall stalls Napolita Pizzeria and Casa Bonita Cantina will also offer their full menus. The pit party is free and no reservations are required. NASCAR Pit Party at Millennium Hall, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, July 1; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, July 2.
NASCAR Meet-and-Greet at Portillo’s, 520 W. Taylor Street, South Loop
Racing fans can get up close and personal with professional stock car racing driver Austin Dillion on Saturday, July 1 at Chicago street food heavyweight Portillo’s near the border of South Loop and Little Italy. While Portillo’s is never short on Italian beef or Chicago-style hot dogs, the chain will only hand out 200 wristbands for the meet-and-greet, which guarantees a meeting and autograph signing with Dillon. Attendees will also get a chance to take photos with the Coca-Cola Show Car. NASCAR Meet-and-Greet at Portillo’s Canal & Taylor, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, July 1.
Talladega Nightlife NASCAR Pop-Up at Bandit, 841 W. Randolph Street, West Loop
No city event in Chicago is complete without an accompanying pop-culture bar pop-up, and party spot Bandit has graciously stepped up with Talladega Nightlife, a boozy event inspired by comedian Will Ferrell’s deeply silly 2006 send-up Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Costumed staff members will serve themed Jell-O shots, group-sized jungle juice in a NASCAR-themed cooler, and Chicago-style hot dogs with fries. Talladega Nightlife at Bandit, 10 p.m. to close Saturday, July 1 to Sunday, July 2; noon to close Monday, July 3; 11 a.m. to close Tuesday, July 4.