Engines starting to roar as races hit town
By Bob Okon email@example.com September 12, 2012 9:04PM
Race Fan Rally is held in downtown Joliet before the weekend NASCAR races at Chicagoland Speedway. Thousands of visitors attend the rally, which offers a festival atmosphere with food vendors and racing attractions. | Sun-Times Media file photo
Updated: October 15, 2012 9:29AM
JOLIET — Gear up race fans.
The city of Joliet and Chicagoland Speedway have two days of pre-racing fun scheduled for Thursday and Friday.
Race Fan Rally enthusiasts get a special treat this year when the rally for the first time will be held on a Friday.
That means no work the next day for lots of local fans who go to the downtown festival, which runs from 4 to 10 p.m. And no school either, noted Nicole Meagher, senior communications manager for Chicagoland Speedway.
“Hopefully the turnout will be tremendous,” Meagher said.
Race Fan Rally, a street festival of race cars, music, food and drink, was moved to Friday because this is the first time the big NASCAR race weekend has not included a Friday night race. In the past, it was on Thursdays.
Thursday also is a big pre-race day, since it marks the second year for the hauler parade, an event in which the trucks that bring the race cars to Chicagoland Speedway pass through downtown Joliet on their way to the track.
It’s a big deal for real race fans, said Meagher.
“If you are into motor sports and NASCAR, it is definitely exciting to view these haulers up close,” Meagher said.
And, fans can get a closer view of the haulers this year when they are staged starting at 4 p.m. at Hollywood Casino. The haulers will leave the casino parking lot in time to make a 5 p.m. crossing of the Jefferson Street bridge as the parade starts downtown.
But the event will linger at Hollywood Casino, Meagher said.
NASCAR and the casino are teaming up to combine the hauler viewing with a Bears-Packers game party for fans who want to stay and watch the Thursday night game at Hollywood’s sports bar.
For a bit of added interest, racers Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth have a bet on the game, Meagher said. Busch has family in the Chicago area, and Kenseth is a Wisconsin native. So, if the Bears win, Kenseth will show up at the drivers’ meeting on Sunday in a Bears jersey. Or, Busch will wear a Packers jersey if the Bears lose.
The downtown parade will go north on Scott Street and south on Ottawa Street before heading to Chicagoland Speedway.
The city has encouraged fans attending the parade to gather at designated viewing areas: McBrody’s Bar and Grill, 73 W. Jefferson St.; the Joliet Area Historical Museum, 201 N. Ottawa St.; and the Joliet Public Library, 150 N. Ottawa St.
Race Fan Rally is run by the city of Joliet. But Assistant City Manager Ben Benson noted that Chicagoland Speedway always is a big help in making the event successful and has stepped up its involvement in the rally in recent years.
The races themselves follow on the next two days. The Dollar General 300 powered by Coca-Cola is on Saturday, and the Geico 400 is on Sunday.