Race Weekend Central

Friday Faceoff: Are Chicago Concerns Warranted?

Are critics’ concerns about the safety of drivers and fans at this weekend’s Chicago street course race warranted?

Vito Pugliese: I wouldn’t necessarily call it fearmongering; it’s not an inaccurate statement to say that the city of Chicago is home to a number of shootings and murders. While other tracks are near areas equally affected, those are actual facilities holding the event. The Chicago circuit is literally just on the streets, albeit in a relatively safe area with a strong police presence this weekend. That said, it is the responsibility of any attendee to manage their own level of risk and safety with regards to where they elect to go in the areas outside of where the race is taking place, just as they would in any other city for a sporting event.

Phil Allaway: These concerns are absolutely not warranted. Grant Park is probably the safest place in Chicago on a normal day. It will be even more so for this race. That stuff is just a bunch of talking points being parroted by a pack of morons that either have never been to Chicago or have some kind of personal agenda. Makes you wonder about those people and what they’re really trying to say. Probably doesn’t have anything to do with NASCAR.

Zach Gillispie: While the concern is justifiable, the fearmongering is not. Violence and crime are plaguing some cities, but singling out Chicago is a bit unfair. However, if we completely ignore our concerns, we are automatically letting our guard down. One thing we do have to remember is that city backdrops present a much larger security challenge than closed-course permanent circuits. At these permanent circuits, security is more centralized to protect the individuals at the stadium. However, cityscapes contain hundreds of thousands of people who are doing myriad activities (not just attending a race) in a tightly confined space. No matter what city the street race is held in, there should be heightened concern.

Wyatt Watson: NASCAR is always has safety as its No. 1 concern. There will always be people that are concerned with the safety of both drivers and fans alike, but the concerns for safety should be laid to rest. NASCAR would not be putting on this event if it was concerned about the fan or driver safety even slightly.

Mike Neff: Safety concerns are no different than any other major sports venue. Nefarious individuals do horrible things everywhere. Statistically Chicago is not extremely high on the list of violent crimes, so this event does not present an unnecessary risk for fans.

Luken Glover: Any time one hosts a sporting event, there is a risk carried. That is why leagues were hesitant to return to action immediately following 9/11, why we have increased security and why fans are monitored constantly. The fearmongering is inappropriate, and I am expecting a safe event. However, there is validity to concerns some may have. We live in a broken world, so anywhere can be a threat, and major cities are some of the most vulnerable. Chicago is far from the only city with violence, but there is a reason that it carries a certain stigma. As others have mentioned, this is taking place over a spread out area, not a controlled facility. Risk management certainly was accounted for, but even with increased security, there is vulnerability over multiple streets. Is fearmongering warranted? No. But shutting down any notion of a risk is not only poor awareness, it is also irresponsible, ignorant and makes me question whether those doing so actually care about the event or if they are distracted by the luster of going to a city.

See also
Happy Hour: Is Chicago Going To Be a Failure?

Teammates Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman are both outside of the top 16 as the list of NASCAR Cup Series winners continues to grow. Will they need to win to get in the playoffs?

Allaway: Alex Bowman is two points out of the playoffs right now. My guess is that he won’t need to win, but Chase Elliott will. Had he not been suspended for intentionally wrecking Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600, maybe that answer would be different.

Glover: A deep dive into the standings reveals that two spots are likely going to be open after you account for winners and those with a healthy points gap, barring a slew of new winners. That battle will very likely come down between Bubba Wallace, Daniel Suarez, Bowman, Ty Gibbs, AJ Allmendinger, Elliott and maybe Michael McDowell if he capitalizes on road courses and superspeedways. Bowman does not need a win as of right now, and if he finds that speed he had prior to the injury, then he will be in good shape. Elliott is actually just over a full race behind the cut line. A string of races with a strong amount of points will get him back in the hunt. However, banking on points can quickly go wrong. Just ask Martin Truex Jr. a year ago.

Gillispie: Realistically, there are two playoff spots that are still being fought for, as the rest have either been claimed by a winner this season or the drivers that currently possess them are around 100 points or more above the cut line. Bowman currently is in the conversation to grab one of those two final spots on points, while Elliott is miles behind. There are still plenty of races remaining for a winner outside of the current playoff grid to grab a spot. For everybody 15th on back in points, which Elliott and Bowman are, this is a must-win situation.

Pugliese: Bowman, yes. Elliott possibly could simply because he’s consistently running better. Both have missed races due to circumstances they arguably could have controlled, but Bowman is definitely in a more precarious situation than Elliott.

Neff: Bowman should be in with no problem, even without a win. Elliott is roughly a full race’s points behind in the standings. It is possible that he could point his way in, but the more likely scenario for him is a victory.

Watson: Elliott, yes. Bowman, not yet. The big difference between the two is that Elliott is 62 points behind the cut line, and that gap will only increase with surprise winners behind it. Bowman on the other hand can still theoretically point his way in as long as there isn’t two winners outside/near the cut line.

Should Carl Edwards give NASCAR another shot, or has the sport passed him by?

Gillispie: Many thought Carl Edwards was never coming back, but he’s been at the racetrack quite a bit in 2023. So Edwards is coming back. Mark my words.

Neff: How would driving cars quickly in circles pass someone by? It is possible that his physical capabilities have diminished but the sport is not that different from when he ran. If he does take a shot, let’s hope it is for a full season and not some one-off runs.

Pugliese: Absolutely not. His walk-off shot was getting jobbed out of a championship due to a 30th-place car with a flat tire, race easily in hand. He quit in part because of concern over his safety and being able to call it a career without any injuries. This current car is a far cry from the one he exited with regards to the transfer of energy upon impact. One look at Ryan Blaney‘s car after it got turned on a restart accelerating up through third gear should be deterrent enough.

Watson: Edwards should make a return when he is ready and committed to jumping back into the car, whether it is a one-off, part time or full time. It’s been uplifting to see him come back to the events he’s attended, and like Hamlin alluded to on his podcast, the more Edwards comes out to these races, the stronger the itch will become to strap back in.

Glover: You can definitely sense an itch is there, as Hamlin also said. When a driver has that itch, they typically find a way to return, even if it’s not in NASCAR. However, you hear most retired drivers say that if they were to return, it would have to be in a winning situation. As understandable as that is, how realistic is it? Superspeedways present the best opportunity for that, but the high speeds typically make drivers think otherwise. Road courses would be the other scenario, but the days of road course upsets are far and few between right now. Edwards should come back, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he does. However, it should be in the NASCAR Xfinity or NASCAR Craftsman Truck series, circuits where he could absolutely compete given the right opportunity. 

Allaway: The ball is in Edwards’ court. We know that he’s in shape to do it and claims to still have the itch. Does he want to scratch it? If he wants to, he can, but he already knows that there’s going to be a learning curve. He’ll have to understand that he wouldn’t be winning out of the box.

See also
Carl Edwards Has a Positive Outlook on Future of NASCAR

Sheldon Creed was penalized but not suspended for on-track retaliation in the Xfinity Series. After parking others this season, is this an example of inconsistency from NASCAR?

Neff: Every situation in racing is different. NASCAR does its best to analyze each situation on its own merits. Precedent does play a role, but it still comes down to the facts surrounding each individual instance.

Glover: The argument here is that while Sheldon Creed will still race, he did lose points; Elliott did not directly. However, how many potential points did Elliott lose by not being able to compete at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway? In Creed’s defense, he did not right-rear someone on a high-speed oval on the frontstretch. At the same time, it was another intermediate track, and intentionally wrecking someone is a big no-no. I wouldn’t call it complete inconsistency, but it still makes some scratch their heads.

Allaway: The only difference here is that Creed didn’t right-rear Sammy Smith. Had he right-reared Smith into the wall at Nashville Superspeedway, he would be sitting out this weekend. As a result, it is not an example of inconsistency. I don’t know how NASCAR is going to handle these types of issues on short tracks, but what we’re seeing on intermediate tracks is for intermediates.

Watson: If compared to how Hamlin wrecked Ross Chastain at the end of the Phoenix Raceway event intentionally, NASCAR made the right call since there was clear radio communication that Creed intentionally wrecked Smith. Creed wrecking him in the turn wouldn’t warrant a full suspension for a race, but the 25-point penalty and fine are in line with what NASCAR has done similarly this season.

Pugliese: Yes. I could write a novel with regards to how Richard Childress Racing has historically been treated differently in the past, but I don’t want to wear out the keyboard on my PC.

Gillispie: The last time NASCAR was consistent was 1947.

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Luken Glover joined the Frontstretch team in 2020 as a contributor, furthering a love for racing that traces back to his earliest memories. Glover inherited his passion for racing from his grandfather, who used to help former NASCAR team owner Junie Donlavey in his Richmond, Va. garage. A 2023 graduate from the University of the Cumberlands, Glover is the author of "The Underdog House," contributes to commentary pieces, and does occasional at-track reporting. Additionally, Glover enjoys working in ministry, coaching basketball, playing sports, and karting.

Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (monthly, Fridays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

Wyatt Watson has been an avid fan of NASCAR since 2007 at the age of 8. He joined Frontstretch in February 2023 after serving in the United States Navy for five years as an Electronic Technician Navigation working on submarines. Wyatt writes breaking NASCAR news and contributes to columns such as Friday Faceoff and 2-Headed Monster. Wyatt also contributes to Frontstretch's social media and serves as an at-track reporter.

Wyatt Watson can be found on Twitter @WyattGametime

Never at a loss for words, Zach Gillispie is a young, talented marketing professional from North Carolina who talks and writes on the side about his first love: racing! Since joining Frontstretch in 2018, Zach has served in numerous roles where he currently pens the NASCAR 101 column, a weekly piece delving into the basic nuts and bolts of the sport. Additionally, his unabashedly bold takes meshed with that trademarked dry wit of his have made Zach a fan favorite on the weekly Friday Faceoff panel. In his free time, he can be found in the great outdoors, actively involved in his church, cheering on his beloved Atlanta Braves or ruthlessly pestering his colleagues with completely useless statistics about Delma Cowart.

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Shayne

“The most recent gathering of hundreds of marauding teenagers and young adults occurred on Monday evening in the Lakeview neighborhood, an area just north of downtown. Video from WGN-TV showed teens jumping on cars and raiding businesses while Chicago Police officers stood by watching.

These mass crowds of teens causing chaos in the Windy City’s streets have occurred time and again this year. Just in April, a couple suffered a serious attack as groups of hundreds of teens caroused mobbed the city’s downtown Loop area.

In May, Chicago’s new mayor, self-professed “progressive” Brandon Johnson, took office, but the new mayor does not seem to have been able to make a dent in the rising crime rates or put a stop to these mobs of teens terrorizing the city.

Also in April, two teens were shot by someone apparently shooting randomly into a crowd downtown during four days of rioting and teen mob action.

In May, Chicago’s new mayor, self-professed “progressive” Brandon Johnson, took office, but the new mayor does not seem to have been able to make a dent in the rising crime rates or put a stop to these mobs of teens terrorizing the city.

“In no way do I condone the destructive activity we saw in the Loop and lakefront this weekend,” Johnson said after the four days of destruction wrought in April. “It is unacceptable and has no place in our city. However, it is not constructive to demonize youth who have otherwise been starved of opportunities in their own communities.”

Y’all have at it.

John

There are people with a lot to lose this week. I’m sure every cop is on OT. But the PR on this event acknowledges zero reality in its zeal to make sure its a success. With twice as many people in attendance and zero incidents, why a venue 3 hours away was cast aside for this high risk venture escapes me. I hope its a great week for those in attendance, but you won’t see me in the crowd.

WJW Motorsports

I’d never, ever, go, but if I did, I would be travelling heavy.

And thank you, Zach – for summing up NASCAR’s track-record for rules, penalties and just about anything in one succinct statement.

Last edited 9 months ago by WJW Motorsports
John

Carl Edwards coming back at age 43 seems unlikely unless its a one off deal in Project 91 or perhaps a single in an RFK ride. The metrics indicate that 43 is where talents wain, and a guy that’s been out for a few years coming back? I don’t think so. Its just people my age wishing their favorites were young again…because then we’d be, too.

TiminPayson

Phil Allaway has a take on Chicago safety contrary to everyone else’s. Wonder what he is really trying to say?

Duane

Well I think we can all see what Mr. Alloway thinks. I though you were a man of facts . All it took was for me to do a quick Google search of “Murders in Chicago ” and this information is from the CPD. 700 murders and 2600 shootings in 2022. Plus another article calling Chicago the murder capitol of the US. And that information came from an article in the Madison St. Claire Record newspaper. But it is all just propaganda right?

Duane

Sorry for the miss spelling, darn spell check. Mr. Allaway.

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