NASCAR Team Owner Rick Hendrick Wants a Cup Series Street Race
Hendrick sees it as a good way to draw in new fans, a lot like the Clash at the LA Coliseum.
NASCAR hasn't been afraid to shake up its formula lately, and overall, it's been working. From trucking in thousands of tons of clay to Bristol to turning football stadiums into short tracks and making ovals into road courses, the series has tried a variety of new formats to help attract new fans. Now, Rick Hendrick has another suggestion: street racing.
In a press conference following William Byron's win at Atlanta Motor Speedway over the weekend, the Hendrick Motorsports team owner was asked about what he'd like to see in the future, as NASCAR continues to evolve, and his answer was straightforward: "I would like to see a street race. Hopefully, we'll just continue to work outside the box, and I think that's growing a lot of new fans for us."
In a way, Hendrick Is already entering a Next Gen car in a street race. He committed just last week to enter a modified NASCAR Cup racer in the 24 Hours of Le Mans next year as an unclassed, experimental entry. While the Circuit de la Sarthe—the course where Le Mans is raced—is only partially a street course, it'll still be the closest a NASCAR entry has gotten in decades. The series did run a street-based track until 1958 when the sand-and-state-highway layout of Daytona was run for the last time.
Hendrick did not lean on NASCAR heritage to make his case, though. "I just think it's exciting. I think it's different... I mean, if there's a right street circuit that we could race on, I just think something different brings in a new level of fans." The Clash at the LA Coliseum, Hendrick noted, was an excellent outreach to new fans—indeed, NASCAR's estimate was that 70 percent of ticket-buyers at the Los Angeles event had never seen a NASCAR race before.
It's not just an idle fantasy to dream up a street course, either: NASCAR itself is reportedly in talks with the city of Chicago to race on its streets as soon as the 2023 season, so it's possible Hendrick could see his wishes come true sooner rather than later. Whether or not it comes to fruition, though, won't be known until NASCAR finalizes and announces its 2023 calendar later in the year.
Got a tip or question for the author? Contact her directly: firstname.lastname@example.org