Chicago NASCAR Street Race 2023: Live updates and news

Live coverage from the Sun-Times and WBEZ on what’s happening in and around the NASCAR Chicago Street Race.

Noah Gragson brings out third yellow flag after crashing in same turn twice

With 30 laps down, the Grant Park 220 is back under caution.

Noah Gragson in the No. 42 went back into the tire barrier in turn 6 and got stuck, bringing out the yellow flag. He crashed and had to be towed out of the same barrier earlier in the race too.

The track has continued to dry out as racing has continued, and most teams have switched to slick racing tires instead of rain tires.

The rain tires were steaming hot as they came off the cars in Pit Road.

Christopher Bell in the No. 20 continues to lead the pack. Before the caution, he was over 8 seconds ahead of the next car, Shane van Gisbergen in the No. 91.

First stage of race down; 80 laps to go

Christopher Bell in the No. 20 led the field across the start-finish line at the end of the first 20-lap stage of the Grant Park 220. The leaders of the stages pick up extra playoff points in the Cup Series.

Rain has stayed out of the area throughout the first few laps of the race, and the track is starting to dry out along the groove drivers are sticking too.

Teams will have to make a choice between keeping rain tires, which could overheat without water to cool them off, or swapping them for slick tires that have less traction.

Several more cars have gotten into the wall in the wet conditions. Ryan Blaney in the No. 12 came down Pit Road after getting into the wall.

Joey Logano in the No. 22 slid into the tire barrier in turn 6 a few laps after the end of the first stage, which has caught several other drivers in the first stage. Then he got tangled with Jenson Button in the No. 15 as Button was trying to get into pit road.

Second yellow flag out after 12 laps of racing

The Grant Park 220 is under caution again after another crash after just 12 laps of racing.

Noah Gragson, driving the No. 42, slid into the tire barrier in turn 6. That 90-degree turn, at the corner of Balbo Drive and Columbus Drive, also caught Kyle Busch earlier in the race.

Slick conditions have continued to dominate racing. Tyler Reddick in the No. 45 had led the field until lap 9, when he hit a slick spot and slid, allowing Christopher Bell in the No. 20 to pull ahead.

Drivers struggle on the wet track in first laps

The yellow flag was out on the third lap of the Grant Park 220 after Kyle Busch, driving the No. 8 Chevrolet, slid straight into a tire barrier.

Multiple cars slid in the wet conditions in the first few minutes. Brad Keselowski in the No. 6, Eric Jones in the No. 43 and Noah Gragson in the No. 42 all slid into each other before the first lap was finished.

Pole winner Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 Toyota slid coming into a turn and hit a tire barrier, giving Tyler Reddick in the No. 45 the opportunity to start pulling away from the field.

Green flag has dropped in the Grant Park 220

The green flag has dropped in the Grant Park 220 — kicking off 100 laps of Cup Series racing.

It’s an unusual start to a race. The track is still wet after a long day of soaking rains, though NASCAR dryers and sweepers have cleared some of the large puddles of standing water.

There’s not a lot of room for error on this narrow road course. Hydroplaning could easily send them into the concrete barriers.

Drivers are starting off with rain tires, which have treads to give them extra traction. But if the rain stays away, parts of the track will dry up as cars go over it, giving teams the opportunity to switch to slicker tires.

It’s race time — drivers have started their engines

Chicago Bears QB Justin Fields has told drivers to start their engines, kicking off the Grant Park 220.

Fields gave the command remotely from the media center. A few minutes afterwards, cars started rolling out onto the track.

NASCAR aiming for 5:15 p.m. start

Cup Series drivers are walking to their cars in preparation for the race to start.

NASCAR said in a tweet that they’re aiming to start racing at 5:15 p.m.

Teams could be seen pulling tarps off cars in Pit Road in anticipation of racing starting.

Chicago Bears QB Justin Fields, who is the Grant Park 220 grand marshal, is back in the press room to give the opening command for drivers to start their engines.


Teams remove the tarp from a NASCAR Cup Series car in anticipation of the start of the Grant Park 220.

Anthony Vazques/Sun-Times

Justin Fields practiced saying “start your engines” a few times at home in preparation for race

‘I don’t even want to sit through a race right now,’ soaked fan says

Margaret and Dave Sula of the Kankakee area stepped out of the course to change into dry clothes at their Loop hotel.

They were walking across the course to meet their son and daughter-in-law when the rain became too much.

“But walking over there we were just like, ‘I’m so soaked.’ I don’t even want to sit through a race right now,” Margaret Sula said.

Unlike at other NASCAR tracks, there was hardly anywhere to take shelter, she said. Gate workers weren’t allowing fans to bring in umbrellas, either.

The couple said they wished they could’ve been alerted by loudspeaker about the Xfinity Series race being called off.

And they said they’d prefer the race be postponed to Monday, when better weather is expected. The National Weather Service was predicting partly cloudy skies and a high of 76.

Margaret and Dave Sula left the NASCAR Chicago Street Race course to change into dry clothes.

Margaret and Dave Sula left the NASCAR Chicago Street Race course to change into dry clothes.

NASCAR Cup Series Race ‘in a holding pattern’ due to weather


Rain continues to fall on the NASCAR Chicago Street Race course.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

NASCAR announced racing is on hold a few minutes before the Grant Park 220 was set to start.

Heavy rain continues to fall in downtown Chicago, leaving inches of standing water on the track. The National Weather Service issued an updated flash flood warning at 3:58 p.m. saying up to 3 inches more of rain could fall in the next few hours.

According to the NWS, 2-6 inches has already fallen across much of the area, with as much as 8 inches reported in isolated spots. Rain is falling at about an inch an hour in downtown Chicago.

The sound of the emergency alert siren on reporter’s phones prompted groans and complaints in the press room, where the national anthem and invocation were just held.

NASCAR moves national anthem and invocation to the press room

With rain still falling on Sunday afternoon, NASCAR did something unusual for the national anthem and invocation — by moving it to the press room.

The Uniting Voices Chicago children’s choir performed amid rows of tables and laptops, where reporters have been working and press conferences held throughout the weekend. The Chicago Fire Department Honor Guard presented the colors, and Pastor John F. Hannah delivered the invocation.

The Grant Park 220 is scheduled to start shortly after 4 p.m.

After rain stops and the race begins, if you’re thinking about a last-minute visit to NASCAR Chicago, here are 5 great spots to see the race without a ticket

Fans react to Cole Custer’s Loop 121 victory announcement

NASCAR fans were upset, but not too bothered after officials announced that Saturday’s Xfinity Series race wouldn’t be finished on Sunday morning.

Cut short by to lightning a day earlier and rained out today, Cole Custer was declared winner of The Loop 121 race. Fans still wandered muddy festival grounds in hopes that Sunday’s Grant Park 220 race would still be on.

“I would’ve liked for them to keep racing,” said Justin Berg, who’s been to at least four other NASCAR events. “At least switch tires and see, but I understand with the … lightning that they had to call it.”


Justin Berg (from left to right), Nick Wolak, Savannah Hermanson, Ryan Wolak and Jonathan Wolak are a group of family members, coworkers and friends from the South Side attending NASCAR’s Chicago Street Race.

South Sider Nick Wolak said that he prefers the NASCAR spectacle to Chicago’s illegal street takeovers that have seemingly grown in popularity in recent years.

Kyle Dillon, 32, and his girlfriend Cassera Evans, 21, drove in from Elgin in hopes of catching the main event, and were impressed with the layout of the festival.

“I think it’s a really good thing for the sport, and I hope it just adds new fans,” Dillon said.

Dan Nipple and his son Jared Nipple drove in from Madison, Wisconsin, to attend their first NASCAR event. Dan’s kids gave him tickets for Christmas, and he’s willing to stay in the city until Monday if Sunday’s race is postponed.

“We’ve gone to other NASCAR events and they usually get rained out,” Dan said. “But, it’s Mother Nature.”

Flash flood warning extended to 6:30 p.m.

Rain continues to fall in downtown Chicago on Sunday afternoon.

The National Weather Service has extended a flash flood warning for the area to 6:30 p.m., after the Cup Series race is scheduled to start this afternoon.

Despite heavy rains, NASCAR Cup Series teams could be seen rolling their cars from their temporary garages to the course for the Grant Park 220, which is scheduled to start around 4 p.m.

Cup Series teams roll their cars from the garage area to the track on Sunday afternoon during heavy rains.

Cup Series teams roll their cars from the garage area to the track on Sunday afternoon during heavy rains.

Winner of Loop 121 calls it the ‘weirdest race I’ve ever won’

Cole Custer, driver of the No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, was sitting with his team in Pit Road waiting for the Loop 121 to restart when he got word that he won.

“It’s just the weirdest race I’ve ever won,” Custer told reporters Sunday afternoon in the NASCAR Chicago Street Race press room in the Art Institute of Chicago. He joked that they’d contemplated jumping in Buckingham Fountain to celebrate but were told it would’ve been a felony.

Custer won the pole and led every one of the 25 laps that Xfinity Series drivers completed on Saturday, before the race was halted due to lightning.

The race had been scheduled to continue Sunday morning. But instead, Custer and the other drivers were left waiting at the track as heavy rain fell in downtown Chicago.

Rain introduced a lot of new complications to an already-challenging course. Drivers had just started to get a sense of what line to follow through the course on Saturday, and rain would’ve required them to change that up.

Visibility would’ve been a challenge, with heavy rain still falling. And standing water on the race would’ve increased the risk of hydroplaning — and crashing.

Custer said he thinks that it’s still possible to drive the course if the rain lets up some though.

“I think that if it’s just a little damp, I think there’s no reason why you can’t race here in the rain,” Custer said.

The second planned race of the day, the Grant Park 220, is scheduled to start around 4 p.m.

Cole Custer speaks to the media after being declared winner of the Loop 121 Xfinity Series race.

Cole Custer speaks to the media after being declared winner of the Loop 121 Xfinity Series race.

Fans seek shelter downtown amid heavy rains

Hundreds of NASCAR fans are seeking shelter in businesses along Michigan Avenue as heavy rain keeps pouring down in Grant Park.

Ronald Jackson and his 14-year-old son Josiah Jackson drove from Portage, Indiana, to experience their first-ever NASCAR event. They’ve waited in various locations in the area since 9 a.m. Sunday.

Josiah is enjoying himself by practicing his photography skills and keeping his eyes peeled for a Lamborghini Urus.

“Whatever my son likes to do, I’m gonna support him,” Ronald Jackson said.

He and his son are “playing hooky” from church today in hopes of seeing the race that was postponed on Saturday. They’ll settle for catching Bubba Wallace when he races in the Grant Park 220 Sunday afternoon and are willing to come back on Monday if it’s rescheduled.

NASCAR fans wait in a Starbucks at 8 N. Michigan Ave. for the rain to let up on Sunday.

NASCAR fans wait in a Starbucks at 8 N. Michigan Ave. for the rain to let up on Sunday.

Chicago on track to set daily rainfall record

Sunday NASCAR concerts canceled

After a soggy start to the final Day 2 of NASCAR Chicago Street Race weekend, which delayed doors and start times of races on numerous occasions throughout the morning, officials made the call at 12:30 pm to cancel the day’s planned concerts.

The schedule was to feature country artists Charley Crockett and Miranda Lambert for the finale.

According to an official statement, the decision was made based on localized flooding in the area of Lakefront Green where the concerts were supposed to take place. Chicago is also currently under a Flash Flood Warning through 3:15 pm.

“Today’s concerts have been canceled due to flooding in Lower Hutchinson Field,” the official statement read.

Of the five acts slated to provide the music entertainment for the weekend, only locals The JC Brooks Band and The Black Crowes were able to take the stage Saturday afternoon. The Chainsmokers’s Saturday night headline performance was canceled due to weather.

Xfinity Series race called off; Cole Custer declared winner

NASCAR has called off the Loop 121 race and declared Cole Custer the winner of the race.

Custer, the driver of the No. 00 Ford, won the pole in qualifying on Saturday and led the race during the 25 laps run on Saturday before lightning in the area forced a weather delay.

On Sunday, with rain falling and a flash flood warning in effect, NASCAR declared him the winner, even though the race wasn’t halfway through yet.

In a statement, officials cited “unprecedented circumstances” in their decision. Much of the track is covered in standing water following heavy rains.

There wasn’t enough time to run the race on Sunday before the Cup Series race, scheduled for the afternoon. They also considered running the race on Monday, but the race was already close to halfway over.

Crews work to dry off track, finish race as rain pours

NASCAR and city crews are working to dry off the downtown Chicago street track from today’s storm in an effort to complete the Loop 121 that was suspended because of lightning yesterday.

Drivers have been sitting in a holding pattern since NASCAR tried to restart the race at 10:45 this morning as a result of standing water.

NASCAR jet dryers as well as trucks from Chicago’s Department of Water Management have been on the track for the past several hours to try to blow away the flooding waters on the track.

Brent S. Gambill, the senior director of track communications, said the race could take place while it is still raining, but the larger concern is making sure the track can stay dry enough.

While NASCAR officials hope to complete the Loop 121 in its entirety, by rule, only half of the laps need to be completed in order to declare a winner. Since the race made it through 25 laps out of 55 yesterday prior to the lightning delay, they would only need to complete three more laps to be able to officially declare a winner.

Through 25 laps, driver Cole Custer holds the lead.

A sweeper drives on the front stretch of the NASCAR Chicago Street Race course.

A sweeper drives on the front stretch of the NASCAR Chicago Street Race course.

Fans take shelter as rain continues to fall in Grant Park

A small crowd largely composed of veteran race fans took the shoddy weather in stride.

Brothers Timothy and Cody Alguire, from the Quad Cities, took shelter in a merchandising tent while waiting for officials to announce when the race would start.

They came prepared with ponchos. It’s not their first NASCAR rain delay.

“It seems to not be NASCAR unless it rains,” said Timothy, 31.

They weren’t worried that the races may be pushed to Monday. They drove in for the races and don’t have to worry about booking another hotel night or rescheduling a flight.

Timothy (left) and Cody Alguire take shelter in a merchandise tent.

Timothy (left) and Cody Alguire take shelter in a merchandise tent.

Thomas Kurtz Jr. and his father waited for the race to start outside the Fountain Club.

Does the rain bother the father and son who traveled from southern Wisconsin?

“For me? Not at all,” Kurtz Jr. said.

Thomas Kurtz Jr. and his father waited for the race to start outside the Fountain Club.

Thomas Kurtz Jr. and his father waited for the race to start outside the Fountain Club.

Fans take shelter from the rain in the plaza near Buckingham Fountain.

Fans take shelter from the rain in the plaza near Buckingham Fountain.

Loop 121 race in “holding pattern” due to weather

Xfinity Series drivers are in their cars on the NASCAR Chicago Street Race course, but racing is still on hold indefinitely.

According to NASCAR, the cars are in a “holding pattern” due to standing water on the course.

NASCAR jet dryers were out on the course, but rain continued to fall heavily around 11 a.m.

While some NASCAR fans waited out the pouring rain huddled under awnings at the Millennium Park garage, other ponchoed spectators made their way across the NASCAR Village setup in Butler Field en route to the Street Race course.

Crowds were light for the drenched lower-card Xfinity Series race — no line, no wait at the main entrance when NASCAR aimed to restart the race at 10:45 a.m.

Those fans who did brave it out through the gates were directed away from grandstands during the rain.

A flash flood warning was in effect till 3:15 p.m., or a little over an hour before the scheduled start of the Cup Series race.

Fans walk through the NASCAR Village setup toward the Street Race course

Fans walk through the NASCAR Village setup toward the Street Race course.

Xfinity Series race scheduled to start at 10:45 a.m.

NASCAR says that the Loop 121 Xfinity Series race is scheduled to start at 10:45 a.m.

Rain is continuing to fall in Grant Park. The city is under a flash flood warning until 3:15 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.

The race was paused on Saturday just short of halfway through. NASCAR started letting fans back into the venue Sunday morning around 10:15 a.m. after more morning delays due to weather.

The Xfinity Series cars are equipped with windshield wipers and rain tires are available, according to NASCAR.

Flash flood warning extended until 3:15 p.m.

Charges pending against man who drove on Chicago NASCAR course: Police

NASCAR gates to open at 10:15

Fans line up outside of gates despite weather delays

Flash flood warning

Gate opening delayed

Weather continues to impact the race

The National Weather Service issued a flood advisory for Cook County, which includes Chicago, and surrounding areas until 11 a.m. CST.

The Loop 121 Xfinity race, which was paused yesterday because of lightning, is currently set to continue today at 10 a.m. CST. According to NASCAR earlier this week, the race will continue in the rain with adaptations to the cars including adding rain tires and windshield wipers.

Fans are not allowed to bring an umbrella into the race viewing area.

The signature race of the weekend, the Grant Park 220, has an earlier start time and will begin 4:05 p.m. CST.

Drivers react to track conditions, ‘it’s sketchy’


Cars race around Grant Park for The Loop 121 Xfinity race as part of the NASCAR Chicago Street Race weekend, July 1, 2023.

While The Loop 121 race was cut short due to lightning, the drivers have a better sense of the road conditions for completing the race tomorrow.

“It’s bumpier than any track we’ve been on,” Joey Logano said. “It’s just sketchy. If there’s one word for it, it’s ‘sketchy.’ The intensity you have to bring to go fast, you have to run so hard to go fast that there’s no margin. It’s just really, really hard, like probably one of the hardest things I’ve done in a race car.”

Tyler Reddick finished second in qualifying despite his difficulty in Turn 4, where cars come off Lake Shore Drive with a right turn onto Roosevelt Road.

“You’re going from brand-new asphalt [on the Outer Drive] to just how rough and broken up that bridge [on Roosevelt] has gotten, and it really makes it stressful,” Reddick said. “Every single lap, you’re holding your breath going through not knowing if you’re going to make it or not.”

And then there’s the absence of “runoff room” that has had a lot of these drivers on edge. Think of it as a stretch on an oval track where a driver can run off to safety — into a grassy infield, for example — if he gets into trouble. In Chicago, one false move and you’re meeting a wall.

“You’re going 150 miles an hour down a street and you’re looking at a 90-degree turn in front of you with no runoff?” Logano said. “If you overcook the entry [and], you wreck. You’re done.”

Will fewer cars than usual finish Sunday’s main race?

Yes, 100%,” Logano said. “I think what you’re going to see is everybody is going to be either wrecked or cautious. I think if you can see the checkered flag, you’ve probably had a pretty decent day.”

Read how the drivers were impacted by today’s heat in the full article.

Fans deal with weather, logistical issues to open NASCAR weekend

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Fans leave the NASCAR Chicago street course Saturday after weather forced postponement of The Loop 121 until Sunday.

The weather put a damper on NASCAR’s fan festival to start the weekend.

Not only did it force the race postponement and the cancellation of The Chainsmokers concert, Saturday’s oppressive heat – logging temps in the mid-80s with 78% humidity – put a palpable lull in the fan festival areas in Grant Park.

Ticketholders did have access to free water refill stations, five in all, that were accessible in numerous areas of Grant Park, allowing attendees to forgo the $3.95 price for bottled water in order to stay hydrated (so bring an empty plastic water bottle if you’re going Sunday).

Medic teams were also visible in several areas of the park with dedicated medical stations near Buckingham Park, the southwest side of Lakefront Green and the northernmost end of the track near the corner of Jackson and Michigan.

One of the biggest logistical issues plaguing the layout, however, was the design of the elevated pedestrian bridge that hovers over the part of the racetrack on Balbo, providing the only throughway for fans to move between the Lakefront Green, the Fan Plaza and racing watch areas, especially when the music acts stacked up against races, practice or qualifying rounds.

There were several occasions when the access to the stairs and walkway became completely bottlenecked, as many fans stopped atop the bridge to view the race cars below. Several fans commented on the poor design and frustration over trying to get access to different areas of the park.

The only other option for exiting the festival is to walk south towards Roosevelt, walk through the Museum Campus underpass and wind up on Michigan Avenue, though attendees will then need to walk about 20-30 minutes back to Monroe to access the other side of the park via the North Entrance.

NASCAR cancels The Chainsmokers concert Saturday night because of weather

Weather postpones The Loop 121 race, will resume Sunday morning

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The Loop 121 has been postponed for Saturday and will resume Sunday.

Saturday’s Xfinity Series The Loop 121 race has been postponed.

The race will resume at 10 a.m. Sunday and be aired on the USA Network. Gates open at 9 a.m. for fans. The 55-lap race was stopped on 26th lap as lightning was seen in the area.

The concerts on Saturday night have been canceled.

NASCAR released the following statement:

“Due to the potential for continued lightning strikes and in the interest of public safety and caution, the facility needed to be evacuated. NASCAR had hoped to resume activities, but not until city officials allowed fans to return to the grandstands. The forecast for lightning extends into the next several hours, forcing NASCAR to postpone the completion of the NASCAR Xfinity Series race until tomorrow morning.”

Cole Custer, led all 25 laps before the red flag.

“I was honestly shocked we didn’t wreck more cars.” Custer told NBC during the delay. “Hats off to the field so far.”

Muffled Chicago Street Racers still pump out more than 100 decibels, Sun-Times test shows

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A young NASCAR spectator wears noise-reducing headphones near the Chicago Street Race course on Saturday.

The need for speed should be accompanied by a healthy fear for the ear, experts say.

Sun-Times reporters confirmed as much during an unscientific survey of audio levels blasted out downtown Saturday by NASCAR’s inaugural spin around the Chicago Street Race course, where noise measurements in and around Grant Park routinely topped 100 decibels once the gentlemen started their engines.

Despite NASCAR deploying mufflers in an effort to cut engine noise by up to 10 decibels, the racket was more than enough to cause hearing damage within 15 minutes for people without quality earplugs or noise-reduction headphones, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read the full story here.

Fans forced to seek shelter during lightning delay


Fans exit the north entrance during the lightning delay in The Loop 121.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Kathy and Mark Robinson, a couple from Romeoville, left the track to seek shelter during the rain delay.

“It’s a bummer, but not the first rain delay at a NASCAR race I’ve been to,” Mark Robinson said.

“It just sucks that after 45 days of no weather in Chicago and then this happens today of all days,” Kathy Robinson said.

The two have been enjoying the race so far and said they’re impressed by how NASCAR has organized the weekend.

“We’re seated at Michigan West, which has been a great spot to watch,” Mark Robinson said. “It’s been just a great experience so far.”

Once the delay is over, they plan to head back in for the remainder of the race.

Race start audible nearby “There was this very loud rumble, I felt it in my building”

Amanda Simmons was studying in her dorm at University Center on State Street when she heard Saturday’s race start.

“There was this very loud rumble, I felt it in my building, and so I came down to check it out,” she said.

Simmons, who is getting a master’s in theater directing from Roosevelt University, said she’s been watching the set up happen all week.

And being from Louisville, Kentucky, she’s more into horses racing than cars.

“This is so bizarre, never did I think my summer in Chicago would involve NASCAR,” Simmons said.

“And to have it over the Fourth of July weekend? What’s more American than that?”

Race delayed by lightning in area

The Loop 121 has gone under a red flag because of lightning in the area.

The race, which has been led by Cole Custer in 25 of the 30 laps, is under a 30-minute weather delay on lap 26 of 55. There is no precipitation on the course, but with lightning within an 8-mile proximity, the race must be stopped

The cars have been brought onto Pit Road and drivers exited their cars. Video screens are warning attendees of lightning in the area and asking them to clear the festival areas.

After 18 laps, Cole Custer leads The Loop 121

NASCAR Xfinity Series The Loop 121

Cole Custer, driver of the #00 HAAS Automation Ford, and Sheldon Creed, driver of the #2 Whelen Chevrolet, in the NASCAR Xfinity Series The Loop 121.

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Cole Custer leads through the 18 laps in the Xfinity Series The Loop 121.

Custer, who drives the No. 00 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing, has led from the start in the race.

Custer, only one of four active drivers to have experience driving on road courses, has winning experience in the Chicago-area. He took the checkered flag at the Chicagoland Speedway in 2019.

NASCAR’s inaugural Chicago Street Race got underway at 4:06 p.m. The street course with 12 turns posed new challenge for drivers. The first major wreck occurred on the 18th lap almost an hour into the race.

The race was under the yellow flag as the No. 34 University of Chicago Medical Chevrolet car driven by Andre Castro crashed on the 18th lap at turn No. 1, which is at the corner of Columbus Ave. and Balbo Dr. and sent the race into caution.

General admission tickets don’t guarantee a seat, leaving some fans confused

Some NASCAR fans who showed up to the Chicago Street Race on Saturday were surprised to find their tickets did not guarantee a seat.

Shon George and Urina Idohl spent nearly $400 each on general admission plus tickets that they thought would seat them near Columbus Avenue.

When the Bronzeville couple arrived in Grant Park Saturday, a track employee told them they would have to find a space to stand along the track, they said. The couple said other people in line were surprised too.

“A lot of people are disappointed about this,” Idohl said.

With a couple hours before the green starting flag, they still hadn’t chosen where they were stand to watch the race. A spot they found in front of the Fountain Club seemed promising because a big screen broadcasting the race had sound.

Despite the ticket snafu, George said the ticket price was worth it. This is the NASCAR fan’s second race in two years.

“I think they should come every year” to Chicago, George said. “This is better than the Taste.”


Shon George and Urina Idohl

Even without a ticket, some spectators hope to catch a glimpse of the action

Mamus Oputu, in town from Austin, Texas, doesn’t have a ticket for the race. He’s hoping to catch some of the action at Jackson Drive and Michigan Avenue, where drivers will make one of the final turns toward the finish.

“This seems like the best spot to catch the race from outside,” he said.

He’s excited to watch, but he said NASCAR doesn’t compare to his preferred motorsport, Formula 1 racing.

“I’m more into F1 and this just doesn’t compete with it. F1 is on another level, it’s international and is done on more technical courses,” Oputu said. “NASCAR is usually just an oval.”

He noted that this street circuit seems to be an effort to compete with the rising popularity of Formula 1 in the U.S.

Denny Hamlin tops qualifying, wins pole for Grant Park 220

Audio specialist was electrocuted at Chicago NASCAR course, autopsy finds

A contracted audio specialist who died Friday during the setup for NASCAR’s Chicago Street Race course was electrocuted, according to autopsy results released Saturday.

Duane Tabinski died at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, after a witness heard him groan and found him “slumped over” in the 500 block of South Columbus, according to a Chicago police report and the Cook County medical examiner’s office. Tabinski had been hired by NASCAR to produce audio for pre-race celebrations.

The witness went to help, but another worker stopped him because Tabinski, 53, was in a “padlock” area, meaning high-voltage electricity was circulating, authorities said. Paramedics weren’t able to treat him until the danger was “diffused,” the police report said.

An autopsy Saturday found he died of accidental contact with electrical wires.

Read the full story here.

Drivers Elliott, Harvick both crash after expressing optimism about Chicago track

In the lead up to the inaugural Grant Park 220 race, NASCAR drivers expressed skepticism about the logistics of the infinity-sign-shaped track on city streets.

But on Saturday morning, veteran racers Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick both said they were cautiously optimistic about the race, and complimented organizers on the construction of the track.

Harvick told the press he considered the unorthodox race a necessary move to “grow the sport,” and said he was keeping an open mind.

Shortly after, during the qualifying round for Sunday’s race, Elliott and Harvick both smashed their cars into the walls of the track.

Elliott had said he was prepared for an adverse outcome.

“It may go great, and it may not. And that’s totally fine. I’m good with that either way,” Elliott told reporters before his qualifying round crash.


Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 Hooters Chevrolet, drives during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Grant Park 220 at the Chicago Street Course on July 01, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois.

Sean Gardner/Getty Images

A $16 Italian beef? Here’s some of the food available on the track.

Buying food at the NASCAR Chicago Street Race will set you back a healthy amount.

Beer prices at the course attracted attention on Twitter earlier this week after signs went up listing a six-pack of Busch Light for $63.

At a drink tent on the Lakefront Green, the main General Admission area on the course where the weekend’s concerts are happening, you could also buy six-packs of Michelob Ultra and Budweiser for the same price. Goose Island 312 and Bud Light Seltzer is a $11.50 a can, with a six-pack available for $69.

Nearby, another tent is selling mixed drinks with Cuervo Tradicional tequila, Three Olives vodka and Jack Daniel’s whiskey. A “Big A$$ Strawberry Lemonade” will set you back $24 and a Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Mule costs $14.

Several food options and popups from sponsors are concentrated on the “Fan Plaza” around Buckingham Fountain.

At a Lou Malnati’s tent, a slice of cheese dip dish pizza cost $8. Pepperoni and sausage costs $1 more, and a whole cheese pizza costs $30. By comparison, a large cheese pizza at the restaurant’s Michigan Avenue location is about $31.

Nearby, a Bub City Barbecue stand was selling a brisket sandwich for $18 and a pork sandwich for $12. A pop-up Jose Cuervo bar on the northwest side of the fountain featured a DJ and a 12 oz. margarita for $14. A 32 oz. ranch water from the bar cost $34.

A tent advertising “Chicago style classics” offers a dog “dragged through the garden” for $9 and an Italian beef for $16 next to a Garrett Popcorn stand hawking Garrett Mix popcorn for $9.

There was one cheaper option available on Saturday. The McDonald’s tent, featuring a fake drive-thru, was giving away free small fries and flurries.

Family of audio specialist who died during NASCAR set-up ‘still waiting for answers’

Duane Tabinski had been a NASCAR fan ever since he met a representative for the company while filming a TV show in Nashville.

The 53-year-old audio production specialist in Chicago producing audio for “pre-race celebrations” at this weekend’s NASCAR events when another worker heard him groan and found him “slumped over” Friday morning, according to a Chicago police report.

Screenshot 2023-07-01 at 2.17.32 PM.png

Kristin and Duane Tabinski

The person went to help, but another worker stopped him because Tabinski was in a “padlock” area, meaning high-voltage electricity was circulating.

Paramedics were able to treat him once the danger was “diffused,” but Tabinski was later pronounced dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

The Tennesseean’s family was “still waiting for answers” Saturday, saying Saturday that “not a lot of information” on Tabinski’s abrupt death had been shared with them.

Read the full story here.

Drivers keeping an “open mind” ahead of Sunday’s race

Sunday’s race on the streets of downtown Chicago will be new territory for veteran NASCAR drivers Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick, but they’re both cautiously optimistic about how the inaugural Grant Park 220 will play out, after getting a chance to walk the track today.

“If you’re going to grow the sport, you have to do stuff like this,” Harvick said to reporters at NASCAR’s temporary media center at the Art Institute of Chicago. “They’ve just done a good job. [The track] flowed well on the simulator, it looks like it flowed well in practice with the Xfinity cars and I don’t expect anything different with our cars. … It’s been a great experience so far.”

Despite initial skepticism from some drivers as to the logistics of the track, Harvick, driving the No. 4 Ford, is keeping an open mind.

“You just don’t know how these types of things are going to turn out, so an open mind definitely is better than walking in just trying to figure out how to make it fail and trying to figure out all the flaws with it,” Harvick said.

Elliott, driving the No. 9 Chevrolet, noticed a few places in the track where it appeared the welded manhole covers needed to be redone, but said he wasn’t concerned.

The Grant Park 220 is one of several new NASCAR races this year, including a race at the LA Memorial Coliseum, aimed at attracting new fans. Elliott said he thinks NASCAR is right to branch out.

“Coming and doing events like this are important for us to go try new things,” Elliott said. “It may go great, and it may not. And that’s totally fine. I’m good with that either way.”

Just hours after making these comments to the media, Elliott crashed into the Turn 8 wall while trying to set a fast qualifying time.

‘No scenario is too big’ for barrier-busting NASCAR star Daniel Suarez

As Daniel Suarez gets ready for the NASCAR Chicago Street Race, he’ll be enamored with the thrillingly tight turns and striking skyline, like all the other drivers. But he’ll also be scanning his surroundings for something even more meaningful to him.

Suarez has been a barrier-breaking star as the sport’s first Mexican-born driver to win a Cup Series race and has established himself as a perennial top-20 driver. He’s coming off his best season, finishing 10th.

His success has propelled him from modest means growing up in Monterrey to all kinds of accolades. He already has had cameos in multiple movies — he’s the voice of Danny Swervez in ‘‘Cars 3’’ — and has been invited to tell his story to students at a special event at the White House. That’s quite an arrival for someone who began his racing career in a go-kart, as he and his dad learned how to maintain them on the fly.

NASCAR Cup Series Ally 400 - Qualifying

Daniel Suarez is coming off his best season in the NASCAR Cup Series. He finished 10th in the driver standings in 2022. He’ll have strong support from Chicago’s Hispanic population at the street race.

Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

For all he has accomplished, though, he still feels like an outsider at times, and it’s refreshing when he competes in parts of the country that have a significant Mexican fan base. Knowing he’ll get that in Chicago, where 29% of the population is Hispanic, makes the race even better.

“Every time I see a Mexican flag in the grandstands, I know who they’re supporting,” Suarez told the Sun-Times. “There’s only one.

Read the full story here.

Out of town fans and curious residents stop by free NASCAR Village before the race

As NASCAR fans streamed into Grant Park for Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, some made a pitstop at the “free experience” at Butler Field a few hours before the race started.

One family from the Loop stopped by out of curiosity, even though they didn’t have tickets.

“It’s interesting. When there’s an event [downtown], we go and see it,” said a woman who identified herself only as Sandy.

She stopped by a U.S. Army booth and deadlifted 140 pounds.

Most of the fans who spoke with a reporter had tickets for the race. They stopped by the kiosks that lined the unshaded park.

The U.S. Air Force had a booth offering a virtual flight simulator. A sunglass company set up a game of cornhole. Chicago police had a kiosk. The longest lines were at a NASCAR trailer selling merchandise.

Kathy Roberts traveled from Minneapolis, Minnesota, to see the race in her husband’s hometown.


Kathy Roberts traveled from Minneapolis, Minnesota, to see the NASCAR Chicago Street Race in Grant Park.

She called herself a “big fan,” and said it made sense to get tickets. They’re usually in town, anyway, to visit relatives on the Fourth of July weekend.

“This is a place that I love. And to experience NASCAR in the heart of the city. Oh my god. This is incredible,” Roberts said.

She and her husband posed for a photo in front of a NASCAR in the middle of the field.
Roberts said she was excited about the unpredictability of the street race.

“It requires a different skill set. I’m really looking forward to see how these professional drivers navigate the course,” she said.

Cover those ears, race fans.

Audio levels were topping 100 decibels close to NASCAR’s Chicago Street Race course as racers started running practice laps around Grant Park.

That’s almost double the regular downtown noise level a Sun-Times reporter measured Saturday morning before any engines were fired up (between 55 and 65 decibels). Those figures were tracked on an unscientific cellphone app.

Most NASCAR races see noise levels hovering around at least 95 decibels during races that regularly last several hours, experts have told the Sun-Times. Hearing damage can set in at that level within half an hour.

That’s why it’s vital for spectators to wear earplugs or sound-reducing headphones — even though NASCAR vehicles are being equipped with mufflers this weekend that are intended to cut noise by about 10 decibels.

“If you wear protection, you’re taking a very effective step to prevent harm to your ears,” Mike Hefferly, director of Rush University Medical Center’s audiology clinic, said earlier this week.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series race is scheduled to start at 4 p.m.

Father and son experience NASCAR for the first time in Chicago: “It’s new. That’s how you should take an attitude.”

Salvador Duenas and his son, Ricardo, have never seen a NASCAR race — not even on TV — but that didn’t stop them from getting tickets to the weekend races.

They took an Orange Line train from their home near Midway on Saturday.

“This is the first NASCAR race” in Chicago, said Ricardo, 18. “So I was like, yeah, I want to watch it — for the experience.”

He bought two general admission tickets for himself and his dad for Father’s Day.

His father said they purposely avoided watching a NASCAR race on TV so their race-day experience would be a surprise.

“It’s the excitement of doing something totally new,” said Salvador Duenas, 54, who works in heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

He brushed off complaints that have been made about noise and congestion caused by the street race.

“We complain about everything,” he said. He said downtown road closures aren’t new, considering that the city holds Lollapalooza and the Taste yearly.

The father and son said they’re coming mainly for the races, but that they may stick around for the Black Crowes concert.

They came prepared for the rain and brought ponchos. Salvador Duenas considered buying ear protection, but the gas station he stopped at was sold out.

He said people should keep an open mind about the race.

“It’s new. That’s how you should take an attitude,” he said.


Salvador Duenas and his son, Ricardo will attend their first NASCAR race Saturday.

First race day arrives with risk of storms

Chicago’s best movie car chases


A car goes flying from Marina City into the Chicago River in “The Hunter.”

We’ve never had anything quite like the NASCAR Cup Series race coming to our downtown streets this weekend — at least not in real life. With the Grant Park 220 just around the corner, and that corner, and that corner, here’s a look at some of the greatest cinematic chase sequences in the history of movies set in Chicago or the general area.

Read the full story here.

White Sox hitting the road with NASCAR

The Chicago NASCAR race will have a South Side flavor to it.

Spire Motorsports driver Ty Dillon’s No. 77 Chevrolet Camero ZL1 and his uniform will sport White Sox logos and colors for the NASCAR Chicago Street Race this weekend.

NASCAR Chicago Auto Racing

Ty Dillon’s Chevrolet will carry White Sox logos and colors for the NASCAR Chicago Street Race weekend.

“This partnership with Spire Motorsports is truly a unique opportunity to showcase the White Sox brand during one of the most talked about events in Chicago,” Mike Downey, White Sox director of marketing and promotions, said in a statement. “The NASCAR Chicago Street Race is certain to be an event for the record books.”

Read the full story here.

Fans flock to course for a peek at final preparations

NASCAR’s Chicago Street Race course was taking its final shape Friday, as crews set up the last fences and onlookers peeked through at the action.

The bustle was palpable, with less than 24 hours before drivers start their engines.

Race crew members could be seen entering their hotels along Michigan Avenue. A vendor sold NASCAR-branded T-shirts at a street corner. Crews unloaded their cars from trailers along DuSable Lake Shore Drive. Stacks of yet-to-be-built fences lay along the track.

“This (kind of race) has never been done,” said Ron Morgan, 62, who traveled from Boston for this weekend’s races.

He and his girlfriend have tickets for the Fountain Club section on Columbus Drive. They opted for the luxury suite and open bar. He did not hesitate to buy tickets that came at a steep price.

“The level of excitement is just amazing. I just had to do it,” he said.

Read the full story here.

You’ve got questions, NASCAR’s got answers

Would you believe it hasn’t even been a whole year since then-mayor Lori Lightfoot reached a three-year agreement with NASCAR on the downtown Chicago Street Race, which revs up for real this weekend?

To some of us, it might seem stock-car racing’s traveling circus has been pounding away at the streets surrounding Grant Park, getting our lakefront scene race-ready, for even longer than that.

Chicago is anything but NASCAR country, at least not yet; not for real, anyway.

But now, in NASCAR’s 75th season, it’s going street racing for the first time at its top level, the Cup Series, and doing so on our turf.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” said Kurt Busch, one of the sport’s superstar drivers. “It’s just a huge deal.”

During the past week, the Sun-Times invited readers to submit questions about the weekend. Several of those questions are summarized below, with answers from a variety of NASCAR drivers and officials. Hopefully, this will help get all our motors running.

Read the full Q&A here.

Bubba Wallace on driving for Michael Jordan

NASCAR Cup Series Ally 400 - Qualifying

Michael Jordan is a co-owner of 23XI Racing, which will have a pair of drivers — Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick — in Sunday’s Grant Park 220 downtown street race.

What’s it like to drive for Michael Jordan?

“He’s always just giving you jabs,” Bubba Wallace said, “checking your confidence and making sure it’s in check. And that’s super important. But he’s always going to rag on you about something, so you’ve got to be ready for it.”

Gosh, wherever have we heard such observations about Jordan before?

Jordan is a co-owner, along with Denny Hamlin, of 23XI Racing, which will have a pair of drivers — Wallace, in the No. 23 Toyota, and Tyler Reddick, in the No. 45 Toyota — in Sunday’s Grant Park 220 downtown street race. Hamlin, a minority partner, drives the No. 11 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Think about it: 23 plus 11 equals 23XI, right? Perhaps you’d figured it out already.

Starting long before his time with the Bulls, Jordan was a fan of auto racing. His NASCAR team began competing in the 2021 season, with Wallace — the Cup Series’ only Black full-time driver — behind the wheel of the race car bearing the most famous number in basketball.

“I’ve learned there are a lot of people that are rooting for the 23 car out there across the globe, and that’s really, really cool,” Wallace said. “So to be here in Chicago, where I know 23 has a massive significance, it’s just cool to be carrying the number and the colors and everything else about it.”

Read the full column here.

NASCAR drivers say they’re nervous about narrow road course

Driver Jenson Button speaks to reporters during a press conference at the Art Institute of Chicago on Friday.

Driver Jenson Button speaks to reporters during a press conference at the Art Institute of Chicago on Friday.

Sunday’s Cup Series race won’t be Jenson Button’s first road course race.

The Formula 1 champion, driving the No. 15 Ford Mustang this weekend, has driven difficult courses all over the world. But he says that driving the Chicago course with its tight 90-degree turns in a larger and heavier stock car will pose a unique challenge.

“We can make it work, but it’s just a very limited amount of time to get it ready before qualifying,” Button told reporters in NASCAR’s temporary press room in the Art Institute of Chicago.

Stock cars need more room to brake than the cars Button is used to. The surface is more unpredictable than the usual NASCAR oval, with changes from asphalt to concrete, manhole covers, bumps and divots. The narrow track will require extra attention too, and there won’t be a lot of room to pass other cars.

“The speeds won’t be extremely high, but when the barriers are that close, it feels incredibly fast,” Button said.

Button said he spun out coming out of Pit Row the first time he drove the simulated course. Ross Chastain, who won last week’s Cup race in Nashville, Tennessee, said he crashed in every single turn in the simulator.

There’s not very much room for error on the track. There are no run-off areas for drivers when they lose control — just unforgiving concrete barriers. Chastain, who’s driving the No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro, said he’ll be extra careful in practice and qualifying.

“The moment I break traction, I’m not going to wonder if I’m going to hit the wall for very long, because the wall is right there,” Chastain said.

How NASCAR built and shipped 2,200 barrier walls near Chicago for street race

Flatbed trucks have been carrying thousands of concrete barrier walls along Interstate 94 over the last two weeks for NASCAR’s Chicago Street Race.

Loaded with four barriers each, the trucks have made more than 500 trips from a concrete factory in south suburban Lynwood, where 2,200 sections were built for this weekend’s races.

“If you happen to be driving up I-94, you probably have seen a lot of these on the road,” said Dan Pedowitz, director of customer solutions at Worldwide Express, a Dallas-based logistics company that’s been moving the barriers.

NASCAR workers, with the help of machinery, lower a concrete barrier onto a road.

Construction crew installing heavy concrete barrier on East Balboa Dr for the NASCAR Chicago Street Race in Grant Park on June 21, 2023.

Victor Hilitski/For the Sun-Times

The barrier walls, weighing 9,500 pounds each, are designed to keep spectators safe from crashes at the 2.2-mile course looping around DuSable Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue.

NASCAR officials say the design of the barriers is the gold standard of street racing.

Read the full story here.

Not so fast, commuters

With NASCAR drivers racing through Chicago’s streets this weekend, the city’s car commuters are slowing down.

While a full list of street closures was announced June 23 — with Northbound DuSable Lake Shore Drive set to close at 4:00 a.m. Saturday between McFetridge Drive and Randolph Street for “added safety” — city officials said heavy traffic and “possible reroutes” should be anticipated in the area.

Monroe Street, Roosevelt Road, Jackson Drive and Harrison Street are facing the brunt of the traffic, though Chicago’s Department of Transportation traffic tracker isn’t currently displaying information for those streets. State Street, from Madison Street to Roosevelt Street, and Washington Street, from Canal Street to Millenium Park, were marked as having “heavy congestion.”

Reporters spotted cars turning around at Wabash and Harrison, as traffic was backed up on Harrison far back enough to block access to Michigan Avenue Friday afternoon.

Public transit has also been affected despite increased service — 14 CTA bus lines with stops around Grant Park were impacted by street closures related to setting up the downtown race Friday. That number increases to 17 tomorrow through Sunday, though a different lineup of buses are slated to be impacted. Riders are being warned to allow extra travel time.

Bikes are also not allowed on CTA trains between 5 a.m. and midnight July 1 and 2 as an attempt to create more space on trains, according to the transportation agency.

Here’s what you can and can’t bring to NASCAR’s Chicago weekend

Heading downtown to NASCAR Chicago this weekend? As with any major public, ticketed event, there are items you can and cannot bring with you inside the venue. There is a strict NASCAR gate entry policy and all guests/bags may be subject to search.

Among permitted items: a collapsible chair (no bag), fanny packs, blankets and seat cushions, sunscreen and clear plastic bags of certain sizes.

Banned items include backpacks, outside food and drink, pets and coolers.

Learn more about what you can and can’t bring here.

Contractor dies after injury at race site

A man died after suffering a medical emergency at the NASCAR Chicago street race site Friday morning.

The man 53, was injured about 11:30 a.m. in the 500 block of South Columbus Drive, according to Chicago police.

The man, whose identity was not being released immediately, was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

Read the full story here.

Tourists disappointed to find Buckingham Fountain blocked off

Dozens of people peeked through fences Friday to catch a glimpse of NASCAR’s final preparations for its street races this weekend.

But not everyone was there for race cars.

Debbie and Tony Roden-Reynolds had planned to visit Buckingham Fountain but found it blocked off by NASCAR construction.

They had flown from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for the Phillies-Cubs game yesterday at Wrigley Field.

The couple said they were disappointed that Buckingham Fountain was closed to the public.

Debbie and Tony Roden-Reynolds

Debbie and Tony Roden-Reynolds, who were in town to from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to catch a Cubs-Phillies game at Wrigley Field, said they were disappointed that they couldn’t visit Buckingham Fountain.

“We’re leaving tomorrow. That was the last thing we were going to see,” said Debbie Roden-Reynolds, 71.

The couple strolled through Maggie Daley Park on the way back to their room at the Doubletree Hilton.

NASCAR has said it would take extra efforts to keep Grant Park open to the public as much as possible.

The majority of the park was closed to the public Friday morning.

One family walked near the track on Columbus Drive, trying to find a way to the Museum Campus.

“There’s no signs or anything anywhere to tell people alternatives,” said Drake Shrader, 28, of Avondale.

His family is visiting from Houston, Texas. For some of them, it’s their first time in Chicago.

“I feel comfortable making my way around the park, but now I’m lost,” Shrader said.

He said he booked a parking spot in Millennium Park’s garage, but he wasn’t able to access it and had to find another garage.

Shrader said he supports bringing industry and “unique experiences” to the city, but they should be less disruptive.

First cars arrive on pit road

The races won’t begin until tomorrow but cars are already being pushed out onto the pit road in Chicago for this weekend’s NASCAR action.

The first one to hit pit road was the very purple Toyota Supra No. 20 car set to be driven by Joe Gibbs Racing’s John Hunter Nemechek:

NASCAR stars throw first pitch before Cubs game

Three NASCAR drivers set to race in downtown Chicago this weekend — Bubba Wallace, Kyle Busch and Tyler Reddick — took a pit stop at Wrigley Field on Friday to throw out the first pitch before the Cubs game.

NASCAR haulers arrive in the city for race weekend

With only one day left until the beginning of the NASCAR races in Chicago, massive semitrailer trucks hauling the stock cars arrived in the city Friday morning.

It’s not difficult to tell they’re not your usual semis: Each one is covered in the same colorful branding used by the vehicles set to race.

Rain or shine: NASCAR Chicago Street Race says it’s ready for weather

Rain is forecast during this weekend’s NASCAR Chicago Street Race, but a shower won’t necessarily put the brakes on the downtown event.

NASCAR is equipping the race cars to handle wet track surfaces, with a few modifications, including rain tires, windshield wipers and a red, blinking taillight.

The real hazard is lightning, which would force organizers to postpone a race, according to Street Course President Julie Giese.

If Saturday’s Xfinity race is postponed for weather, the race will be moved to Sunday morning and be run before the Cup race that afternoon.

If one or both races are canceled on Sunday for weather, they will be held on Monday, the last day available for NASCAR races around Grant Park.

Read the full story here.

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