JOLIET – The officials of most of the nation’s top racetracks probably could be forgiven if they were a little disappointed about no longer hosting a marquee event.
That’s just the scenario that has unfolded at Chicagoland Speedway with the loss of the opening race of the NASCAR playoffs, which will now kick off in Las Vegas.
Instead, the local speedway will host its race the weekend before the Fourth of July, and that excites Chicagoland Speedway President Scott Paddock for a variety of reasons.
While there should be plenty of excitement with the start of the NASCAR playoffs, that wasn’t really the case here in late September, when the race was battling for fans from throughout the Chicago area with the Bears, college football and local high school football.
Taking on a new name, the Overton’s 400, which was announced late last week, the track now will be on one of the preferred summertime weekends and will kick off NBC’s national NASCAR series coverage.
While it definitely will be a hectic stretch at the facilities on the south side of town with the NHRA event taking place Memorial Day weekend and the NASCAR weekend scheduled for the end of June, hosting the two big competitions at those prime times could pay off in a big way.
The NASCAR weekend kicks off on Thursday, June 28, with the ARCA Series race. The next day features the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Overton’s 225.
On Saturday, activities center around the NASCAR XFINITY Series Overton’s 300 and then on Sunday, July 1, the weekend is capped by the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Overton’s 400.
“In the Midwest, and certainly in Chicagoland, summer starts Memorial Day weekend and through Labor Day weekend,” Paddock said. “That’s when families are looking to do things together and trading great family memories. So we think that it’s a great time of the year for us since people are out on summer break and looking for things to do. The new date moves us away from activities like college and high school football. So we’re excited about it.
“We’ll get rolling in April since it’s a smaller program and we’ll run through October, so there’s still a lot going on. But the major two weekends that we’ll have between the NASCAR and the NHRA will be a month apart. That will be a little hectic for us but the pre-planning that we’re doing now is going to pay dividends. And there’s no Bulls, Bears or Blackhawks going on and no pennant races involving the Cubs or the Sox.
“So it’s just a great time to draw a lot of media attention in the market. And the other thing that we like about the date is that we are the kickoff of NBC’s second-half broadcast schedule. So they’re going to pre-promote our event since it’s a big market for them and it’s just a great promotional vehicle and we can be a great partner in NBC. And we’re going to wrap the weekend in a patriotic theme and Americana, and you’ll see that in a big way.”
The speedway already has a special promotion for the race that allows fans to use a special code to buy tickets on the speedway’s website. They could win a ticket refund if defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion and two-time Joliet winner Martin Truex Jr. captures the title at Daytona 500 on Feb. 18.
In addition to the new dates of the races, Paddock is very happy to team up with Overton’s, America’s Marine and Watersports Superstore, which will serve as the entitlement sponsor for this year’s NASCAR weekend: June 29 to July 1.
“We are thrilled to partner with a highly respected brand like Overton’s for our Stars and Stripes weekend,” Paddock said. “Overton’s will take over the Magnificent Mile and a Half as fans will be treated to a festive and memorable weekend event experience.”
Likewise, Overton’s is pleased to team up with Chicagoland Speedway as it hopes to expand its brand name to NASCAR fans with a lot of exposure that weekend.
“We are excited to partner with Chicagoland Speedway and participate in racing events that resonate with outdoor sports fans across the country,” said Marcus Lemonis, chairman of Camping World Holdings. “Having Overton’s serve as the entitlement sponsor will continue to expand our relationship with NASCAR while giving fans a unique and engaging race experience that the whole family can enjoy.”
Overton’s has been launching life on the water since 1976 and was purchased by Camping World Holdings in May 2017 along with Gander Outdoors, formerly known as Gander Mountain. Overton’s customers can shop online at Overtons.com and soon at more than 60 Gander Outdoors retail stores opening in 2018.