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A new tradition is coming to town this July as City staff reached an agreement with Go Go Racing to bring a mini grand prix auto race to Evanston every July 4 for the next 10 years, starting in 2020. The race will feature midget racers better known in dirt track circles, but expanding to road racing is being implemented in a number of small cities, mostly in the southeast.
Evanston will be the farthest north the circuit has reached, when the midget racers land in two years.
“What an opportunity!” crowed the City’s director of pro sport attractions Pearl LeBlanc. “Our hotels will be filled. Our streets full of entertainment and action, our restaurants hives of activity. We could not have dreamed a better opportunity for real economic impact. And the parade – it will not be affected at all.”
The race circuit will indeed largely avoid the current Fourth of July parade route, though residents traveling to the parade may find the going tougher. The race route will fly along Ridge Avenue to Central Street, then east to Sheridan Road, south past Northwestern University to South Boulevard, then across South Boulevard to Oakton Street then back onto Ridge Avenue.
“Oh, the challenges the South Boulevard Station underpass will provide for our racers,” said Go Go’s director of site acquisition C. Mei Scutt. “I don’t believe there’s a trickier, more intricate set of turns in all of racing than we will have here at the Northshore Grand Prix.”
The City has agreed to subsidize a portion of the race using Motor Fuel tax funds and some economic development money. “Using the MFT makes sense,” said the City’s director of corporate largesse Grafton Grant. “There is no greater celebration of the internal combustion engine, and therefore motor fuel, than a good old-fashioned road race.” The City has not had a formal road race since the 1920s, when Howlin’ Ham Rizzkey roamed the roadways and took numerous checkered flags.
Typical Go Go races begin with 20 to 30 race cars, though wrecks and other unfortunate encounters, usually with wildlife, reduce the field to no more than 15 cars by the end of each 200-mile race. Streets must be shut down about a week ahead of time to prepare, place hay bales and other safety mechanisms, and set up pit row, which is tentatively set to be where Chicago Avenue dead-ends into Sheridan Road.
Final plans received the City Council flag of approval on April 1.