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Official Review by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey Co-Founder
It’s a bit of a misnomer to call a race track in Joliet, Illinois “Chicagoland” Speedway. Located 50 miles southwest of the Second City’s Magnificent Mile, Chicagoland Speedway opened in 2001 and has a capacity of 75,000 spectators.
While Joliet may not be confused with a rabid NASCAR town, Chicagoland Speedway has become the track where the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins. This began in 2011, known as the GEICO 400. The track also hosts the NASCAR Nationwide series in July and September, as well as the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in September.
The track has had some bad luck with weather for its Sprint Cup races in 2011 and 2013, but the venue provides one great opportunity for Midwest NASCAR fans to see a race.
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There are several good options located underneath the grand stand at Chicagoland Speedway. Pork tenderloin sandwich ($8), smoked turkey legs ($9), brisket sandwich from Pit Lizard BBQ ($8), and roasted corn are all terrific options.
Domestic ($6) and premium ($7) beers are available at most concession stands. Coke products and Dasani water are also available ($4 per bottle). Spiked lemonades and bloody Mary's can also be found on the stretch of concessions.
The chicken and waffles, served with grilled peaches ($9) from Crash Burger is also highly recommended. Lines at some of the concession stands can get a bit long, so be ready to be patient. If you have a seat near the top, there are also concessions on the upper level, but the options are not as varied, so consider getting your food before making the trek up the ramps, stairs, or elevators.
Seating consists of metal bleachers with good leg room and pitch between rows meaning that you should be relatively comfortable with a good view of the race. Sitting as high up as possible can give you a view of the entire track.
Arriving early can help add to the overall experience. The tailgating scene is vibrant, and the pre-race concert down on the infield helps to get fans in the mood for the roar of the engines.
Speaking of which, fans would be wise to purchase some ear plugs or ear muffs when attending a race at Chicagoland Speedway. Not that this racetrack is particularly louder than most, but it is always good practice when seeing a NASCAR event.
From the top rows of the seats you may notice another race track off in the distance. That is Route 66 Raceway, home to drag racing, and demolition derbies, among other events. The rest of the vista is mostly flat.
The track at Chicagoland Speedway is a 1.5 mile D-shaped tri-oval, similar to Kentucky Speedway. Because it is a fairly small track, there is a good view of the race action even when the cars are on the far stretch.
Camping on the infield is a popular choice for fans who want to make a full weekend out of the experience of attending Chicagoland Speedway. There are several options ranging in price from $75-$650 during the July race weekend, and $125-$1,900 during the Chase weekend in September.
Immediately surrounding the track there is nothing of note as far as bars, restaurants, or entertainment. If you aren't camping on site, then you'll want to spend your time away from the track in downtown Joliet where there are several options.
The Department is a "restaurant and liquor lounge," with a motif that gives a nod to police and firefighters. There's a casual atmosphere, but excellent food and drinks. Steaks, burgers, sandwiches, and pasta are mainstays.
If you want more of a sports bar, then McBrody's is probably the place for you. Here you can keep up with other sports on their many TVs, and they also offer a large outdoor seating area.
You may want to check out the historic Rialto Square Theatre which features music, comedy, or plays. If you like to gamble, then Harrah's Casino is downtown. The Joliet Area Historical Museum is a good way to get to know the area better and is an interesting little museum.
If you're attending the July race, be sure to see if the Joliet Slammers are in town and playing at Silver Cross Field.
Although NASCAR fans are not as prevalent in the Midwest as they are in other parts of the country, there is certainly a following, and many fans look forward to the trip to Chicagoland Speedway each year. You'll find people decked out in gear with their favorite driver's number and sponsors, and there is certainly an enthusiasm for the sport. This is best heard during the opening laps as fans roar when the race gets underway.
Chicagoland Speedway is located about 5 miles south of downtown Joliet. Most fans will probably get there by getting off I-80, on to IL-53, and then heading east on Laraway Road. On raceday, this is a bottleneck, and you will need to have extra patience as you sit and watch turtles pass you on Laraway. Add an hour to your travel time if you are trying to arrive anywhere from 4-5 hours before the race is set to begin.
The bright side is that parking is free, which helps to mitigate some of that frustration of being stuck in traffic. Parking lots are grass fields, which are fairly well maintained. Despite the rainy day that occurred during the Chase race in 2013, the parking lots were not muddy and overall pretty well organized.
Inside the venue, the concourses are very wide, and restrooms are reasonably clean. There can be a long wait for the elevators, so if you are sitting up near the top, and are not able to climb the stairs (and it's a hike), then you'll need to exercise some additional patience with the elevators.
Tickets for the July weekend range in price from $30-$105, and in September the prices rise to $120-$270. This does include the entire weekend of racing, so to get your money's worth, you will want to spend the weekend in Joliet. If you only want to see the NASCAR Sprint Cup series race on Sunday, then prices go for $55-$180.
Ultimately, your return will largely depend on how much you enjoy auto racing and how much time you like to spend in and around the track. The prices are reasonable, including concessions. The free parking certainly helps as well.
One extra point for Champions Park, located outside the venue. Here you'll find plenty of companies offering free giveaways, radio stations, and other knickknacks. There is of course merchandise for sale here, and individual plaques for each race winner over the years.
Another bonus point for the opportunity to see the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. This playoff format has been in place in NASCAR since 2004, and while there are many who do not like the format, it certainly adds an extra level of excitement to race day.
Another extra point for the installation of lights which occurred in 2008. The 2013 race was delayed long enough that the checkered flag didn't wave until almost midnight, so having those lights certainly came in handy.
Chicagoland Speedway is not Chicago, so don't expect deep dish pizza and "Da Bears" accents. What you will find though is a straight forward presentation of NASCAR, and the town of Joliet is worth a visit. If you live in the area, and want to experience NASCAR, then this venue will deliver what you are looking for.
Member Review by pbt140 on Feb 09, 2016
Last year a buddy and myself made the way to Chicagoland race track to catch the Sprint cup cars in action. From the deep south there is not really a great way of getting to Joliet. We had a few options of I65 to near Gary and cut over, or we had getting on I57 and cutting across on 80. Both routes is passed the track and one feels wrong for having to drive many miles north in order to drive south to the track.
The track website is rather awkward as there is nothing about any free camping and has a great number of different prices for seats in the race track. Camping was our main concern since we had brought tents to sleep Saturday night. We were able to hook up with some other race fans and just pitch a tent in the car parking lot. Not sure you are suppose to do this action but was not told otherwise and others seemed to be joining in on the camping so that is where we stayed. There was nothing about free camping listed on the website or information at the track. it is just find a spot and perhaps you can camp.
We arrived at the track on Saturday morning after a stay in a surprisingly nice cheaper hotel. There was no traffic at the time and we arrived so it was easy to get in and out.
There is little, if anything, around the track. We did past many places in Joliet so make sure you bring enough food and drinks to get you through the times. The race track is outside the area of the town.
Going inside the racetrack is quick but you have to be aware of the cooler limit at Chicagoland. Most tracks let you take a 14x14 cooler. Chicagoland is a 6x6 cooler. BE PREPARED, most of the ones on rollers cannot not get into the track. Either buy one beforehand or they have plenty to sell you at the NASCAR selling stations.
Around the track, in the selling areas, they have a good choice of t-Shirts and food sales. Canot remember the name of the place but it was a local sub sandwich shop that was set up selling the best subs for about $7. Those were good! Bought a few and stuck in the cooler. We had subs and beer for supper and subs and tea for breakfast.
After talking with fans in out little self-made camping area, we were talked into just buying the cheap tickets that sits you in the lower ends of the seating sections for the Sunday race. We actually had a great time with the folks in that section. There were hard working people, most with families, that cannot afford all the upgrades. Everybody got along and was very respectable toward the children and senior people in the section. Had a great time with these fans.
Leaving the track seemed to be a long process but we had made arrangements for such delays and it was easily tolerated as we sat talking smack to other fans and listening to music till around dusk.
With the long travel time, this is not a track that I would routinely visit. But I will say that my first trip to the race track was an enjoyable adventure. Just wish the website was clearer.
75 N Chicago St
Joliet, IL 60432
205 N Chicago St
Joliet, IL 60432
73 W Jefferson St
Joliet, IL 60432
151 N Joliet St
Joliet, IL 60432
204 N Ottawa St
Joliet, IL 60432
1520 Commerce Ln
Joliet, IL 60431