NASCAR v. FORMULA One: Taking It To The Streets in Chicago
F1’s Glitz & Glam can’t compete with NASCAR’s “City of the Big Shoulders” confidence.
It's being hailed as the thunderclap collision of titanic racing traditions – this weekend’s NASCAR Chicago Street Race in the style of the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix. The cultural juxtaposition of aspirational v. accessible is palpable, especially when considering televised viewership per race. F1’s average of 70 million per race in 2021 overtakes NASCAR’s 5.5 million by a longshot. If sponsors are any reflection of the brands they support, then F1’s Rolex, CRYPTO.com, Pirelli, Qatar Airways & Lenovo are as much a reflection of today’s influencer-obsessed majority than the user-friendly practicality of NASCAR’s sponsors, including Pennzoil, Geico, FedEx, Chevrolet & Busch Beer.
NASCAR’s American Grit Eclipses F1’s European Elitism
This isn’t about old money v. new – it’s about the perception of status and the sensory experience of watching an F1 race that makes the viewer feel as if they just took a shower as opposed to needing one after watching a couple hours of NASCAR. But here’s the thing about needing a shower: there’s something to be said about the feeling of grit on your skin after a day well-spent – whether it’s at the office or watching the spectacle that is NASCAR, and NASCAR’s grit is one-of-a-kind. Indeed, there’s the powerful-bordering-on-overwhelming scent of oil burning as NASCAR’s stock cars hug the turns of the track, with engines roaring so loudly you feel them thumping your heart like a bass drum long before the cars come racing into view. Then there’s the pre-game – if you’re a spectator attending or just tuning-in from your couch, watching NASCAR is like the welcoming moment when you join the neighborhood block party – an atmosphere where strangers feel like old friends – in groups merging in that happy, ad-hoc way that laughter, blue jeans, Busch beer, BBQ, and country music can do to you (unless you’re a stone). Add to the mix NASCAR’s increasing diversity and you’ve got a quintessentially American brand – which makes Chicago an especially poignant location for NASCAR’s first street race in the Cup Series’ 75-year history.
Chicago’s Famed Urban Grid Transformed into NASCAR Speedway
The "Windy City" – or Chicago, to those unfamiliar with breezy colloquialisms – is priming itself for an injection of roaring engines and tire smoke, with the streets ready to play host to their own brand of speed. It's NASCAR - a name as redolent of blue-collar grit and determination as the city, sitting proudly on the shores of the astoundingly beautiful Lake Michigan, populated with beaches and a population as varied and as vivid as the notes from a jazz saxophone, an urban metropolis that’s not without its social upheavals. Yet despite those challenges, the city recently elected a former elementary school Social Studies teacher to inject fresh hope into this city that pretty much lives up to its hard-earned "City of Big Shoulders" reputation.
The NASCAR Chicago Street Race is living up to that reputation, primed to channel all that NASCAR and Chicagoan gusto into a spectacle of speed on a classic NASCAR track, constructed over the past couple of weeks and featuring the NASCAR trademarks: long straights for pushing the pedal to the metal juxtaposed by tight turns to test the tenacity and reflexes of both the race drivers and the city. It's a track that reflects the soul of the city: rugged, relentless, and full of raw passion.
Contrast this to the grandeur of the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix, where every twist and turn of the Circuit de Monaco is as much an emblem of wealth and prestige as the luxurious high-rises that tower above it. Snaking its way through Monaco's elitist casino district, it's a playground for the likes of old money and new, a spectacle of affluence that even Prince Albert Alexandre Louis Pierre Grimaldi – the 800-year-old head of Monaco's 'ruling' family – wouldn't dare miss, which would be difficult to ignore given the tiny municipality with limited space for a track that’s tight, narrow, and full of chicanes demanding impeccable control. It's a test of class and technique, echoing the exquisite refinement of the city it winds through, where drivers need to be as agile as ballet dancers, as precise as a diamond cutter, and as audacious as a high-stakes gambler to master the infamous circuit.
The tracks might be different, but in essence, they are both a reflection of the cities they call home. Chicago's wide streets, like the city's robust, hearty charm, are perfect for the rough and tumble of NASCAR, the thunderous applause of the crowd echoing off the skyscrapers. Monaco's elegant, tight bends and narrow straights are a mirror of the principality's refined, elitist spirit, the sound of the F1 engines resonating with the jingle of slot machines and clinking champagne glasses.
NASCAR and FORMULA 1 Common Denominator: Deeply Impassioned Fans
Both races also offer close encounters of the automotive kind. In Chicago, it’s between the fans and their heroes, the NASCAR drivers, who have never been shy of mixing it up with the crowd, embodying the notion of being of the people, by the people, and for the people. They'll sign autographs, pose for pictures, even share a hot dog and a cold one.
In Monaco, though, the encounters are more akin to rubbing shoulders with monarchical royalty, Hollywood stars, and the crème de la crème of society. Here, the fans watch the racing from yachts moored in the harbor or from balconies of swanky apartments, the roar of the engines providing the bass line to the symphony of luxury that plays out every year.
That said, the similarities between the two are too great to ignore: what ties these races together is the fervor, the undying love for speed, and the sheer spectacle that they offer. Whether it's the NASCAR Chicago Street Race, with its blue-collar charm and authenticity, or the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix, with its white-collar glamour and glitz, the thrill of racing is universal. Both offer adrenaline-filled hours of pedal-to-the-metal excitement, as men and women (are there any female drivers right now?) push themselves and their machines to the absolute limit, all in the name of everlasting glory.
Even as the chasm between the two worlds widens, a common thread binds the NASCAR Chicago Street Race and the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix – the sheer power of human determination and engineering excellence that propels both events. Indeed, no matter how vast the differences in settings, cultures, and sponsorships, the burning desire to cross the finish line first unifies both.
Here's to the clashing of these two distinct cultures – the accessibility of NASCAR against the aspirational nature of Formula One. To the grit of Chicago meeting the opulence of Monaco. Because at the end of the day, they're both celebrations of a singular human need – the need for speed, for competition, and for the thrill that only racing can provide.
Whether you're sipping a Coors in Chicago or Champagne in Monaco, the spirit of racing unites us all. Whether you're a racing fan cheering from the Windy City's bustling streets or from Monaco's sun-kissed shores, remember this: the language of racing is universal. And when the engines roar to life, that language will resonate in every rev, every gear shift, and every breathtaking overtake. So, sit back and enjoy the ride – it's going to be a thrilling one. Let the engines roar and the streets come alive!