IRL: Racing Stars Salute New Illinois Track

RACING LUMINARIES SHINE ON RACEWAY ASSOCIATES MOTORSPORTS PARK CONSTRUCTION CELEBRATION JOLIET, Ill., Sept. 28, 1999 - The worlds of auto racing, government and business converged here Tuesday to celebrate construction of the first Illinois ...


JOLIET, Ill., Sept. 28, 1999 - The worlds of auto racing, government and business converged here Tuesday to celebrate construction of the first Illinois superspeedway where race fans will be able to see both major league stock-car and open-wheel races.

National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) Winston Cup icons Dale Jarrett and 1998 Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt combined their star power with that of 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr. and 1999 Pep Boys Indy Racing League title contender Scott Goodyear to make the event a high-speed celebration.

"What a great setting for a racetrack - acres of wide-open space right in the nation's third largest market" Cheever said. "And by the looks of the blueprints, it's going to be a fast track that lets us really compete side-by-side. It is always exciting to race on a new track, and I'm sure excited to come back here to race in 2001."

The superstar drivers were joined by two other motorsports legends - Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Tony George and International Speedway Corporation Chairman Bill France.

More than 400 state and local political leaders, business representatives and racing enthusiasts came to the construction site, located about 30 miles southwest of Chicago near Interstate 80, Interstate 55 and Illinois Route 53, to celebrate the official launch of what will be the nation's most versatile motorsports facility.

"The construction of a state-of-the-art major league racing facility of this magnitude and quality in the Chicago metropolitan market symbolizes the ongoing transformation of auto racing from a narrowly focused regional competition to a major mainstream sport that rivals the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball for fan and sponsorship interest," France said. "We are thrilled to be here."

George - whose Indianapolis 500 is the best-attended one-day sporting event in the world - echoed France's remarks.

"Illinois has a tremendous auto racing legacy," George said. "Some of the biggest names in racing history competed here, and today we are proud to add a new chapter to that legacy. Nowhere else in the nation's third-largest market will race fans be able to see the variety and caliber of motorsports competition that will be available at this fabulous racetrack. And nowhere will they be able to experience the quality of fan-friendly service and amenities that they will find at this facility."

The focus of the $100 million project - being built entirely with private funds - is a new state-of-the-art 1.5-mile oval track, which will have a 75,000-seat grandstand. The track will feature high-banked, 18-degree turns, enabling it to host a wide variety of auto racing series. Raceway Associates is negotiating with NASCAR for a possible Winston Cup date, along with the possibility of a Busch Grand National and Craftsman Truck Series date. Negotiations also are proceeding for an Indy Racing League event. The track is expected to begin operating in spring 2001.

The superspeedway will occupy 240 acres on a 930-acre piece of land located adjacent to the existing Route 66 Raceway, which opened in 1998 and will be part of the motorsports park. Route 66 includes a state-of-the-art drag strip, 3/8-mile clay oval and road-course test track, with stadium seating for 30,000 fans. It hosts the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) FRAM Route 66 Nationals, featuring Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, truck and motorcycle racing.

"The synergy of the new superspeedway with the existing Route 66 Raceway will provide Illinois racing fans with most every imaginable type of auto racing entertainment at a family-friendly, easily accessible motorsports park," said Ken Ungar, a representative of Raceway Associates, LLC, which owns the track.

Although Governor George Ryan was unable to attend the event, he commended the owners for the positive economic impact this new facility is expected to have on the Illinois economy, particularly the city of Joliet and the entire Will County region. The one-time economic impact of the construction project has been estimated at $213 million with 2,080 construction-related jobs. Ongoing operations are expected to account for an estimated $108 million annually and more than 1,300 track-related jobs.

Joliet Mayor Art Schultz and Will County executive Charles Adelman both applauded Raceway Associates for choosing the region for the project, saying the motorsports park not only will provide top-notch entertainment for racing fans of all kinds, but it also will serve as an economic engine that will turbo-charge the already strong economic renaissance occurring in Joliet and Will County. "We have truly worked as partners with Joliet and Will County executives and political leaders in bringing this project to the area," said Ungar. "Their interest in this project, their unflagging support and their ongoing efforts are what made this initiative possible. We look forward to becoming a member of the local business and civic community, and to continuing this already successful partnership to bring real economic development - and racing excitement - to the region."

The track is owned by Raceway Associates, LLC, which is made up of the combined interests of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation (IMS), the International Speedway Corporation (ISC) and the former owners of Route 66 Raceway, LLC. Dale Coyne, former CEO of Route 66 Raceway, is president of Raceway Associates. Joie Chitwood, former manager of administration for the Indy Racing League, is the general manager of Raceway Associates Motorsports Park. Chitwood is a renowned stunt driver who earned his racing stripes as a member of the Chitwood Thrill Show family.

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About this article
Series Automotive , IndyCar , NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Jarrett , Eddie Cheever , Scott Goodyear , Tony George , Dale Coyne