Think about the star power in the southwest burbs. Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be driving at Chicagoland Speedway. Meanwhile, Tiger Woods didn’t qualify for the BMW, but Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia and Steve Stricker will be driving (off the tee) at Cog Hill.
“This really shows what a dynamic sports market there is in Chicago,” said Scott Paddock, president of Chicagoland Speedway.
Neither Mr. Paddock nor BMW tournament director Vince Pellegrino are overly concerned about losing spectators because both events are on the same weekend. Without stereotyping too much here, Nascar fans will follow their sport, and golf fans will do the same.
“No matter when we play in Chicago, we always go up against something, whether it’s baseball or the Bears,” Mr. Pellegrino said. “There are plenty of fans to go around.”
Both events catch a break that the Bears are on the road Sunday in New Orleans. They still could lose, of course, if fans stay at home to watch the game on TV.
Regardless, more than 200,000 people are expected to make the trek to either Cog Hill or Chicagoland Speedway at some point this week. Mr. Paddock says the track will be full for Sunday’s race. While Chicagoland doesn’t release figures, the crowd is estimated to be in the 70,000 range.
This will be the first time Chicagoland will serve as the kickoff to the Chase for the Nascar Sprint Cup series of races. It won’t be a one-shot deal. Last week it was announced Chicagoland will handle the duties again in 2012.
By Ed Sherman