SBJ/January 25 - 31, 1999/No Topic Name

Indy-Daytona team to build 2nd Chicago track

Motorsports Alliance is gearing up to build a 75,000-seat speedway in Joliet, Ill., in a move that would bring a second auto racing track to the Chicago area as the rival CART circuit opens at the Chicago Motor Speedway this fall.

Last Tuesday, the Joliet City Council voted unanimously to annex 900 acres, clearing the way for Motorsports Alliance officials to proceed with plans for a 1.5-mile track. The group has been trying to enter the Chicago market for the past two years but recently failed to win support for an 800-acre site in Plano, Ill.

Plans for the privately financed $100 million project in south suburban Joliet include the 1.5-mile track and the Route 66 Raceway, a drag strip that opened last year and sits next to the proposed speedway site.

Motorsports Alliance is a partnership between the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the International Speedway Corp., which owns Daytona International Speedway. In addition to the Daytona and Indianapolis speedways, the group has ownership stakes in 13 other tracks nationwide. Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony George also operates the Indy Racing League, an open-wheel racing series that is a rival to Championship Auto Racing Teams' FedEx Series.

In Chicago, the group hopes to run NASCAR Winston Cup and Busch Grand National events and IRL events. They hope to open the facility in 2001.

"What we will have is virtually every major motorsport organization competing in our facility," said Ken Ungar, chief of staff for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp. "If everything turns out well, we will begin construction this summer."

The track will compete for sponsorships and fans against the Chicago Motor Speedway, a 67,000-seat dual-purpose facility featuring a one-mile auto racing track and horse racing track now under construction in suburban Chicago. That project, which is a venture between CART team owner Chip Ganassi and Sportsman's Park owner Charles Bidwill, is scheduled to run its inaugural CART race on Aug. 22.

Chicago Motor Speedway officials said they aren't concerned about the entrance of another major speedway in the market.

"In a perfect year we are talking about four major events, and there is room," said Chicago Motor Speedway CEO Ed Duffy. "I don't think it hurts us in the future."

Chicago-based motorsports consultant Tim Frost said there is enough demand for auto racing in Chicago to support two tracks, but the question is whether there will be enough quality events to make both tracks profitable.

"There is pent-up demand in the Chicago market, but this will be the first major market with two superspeedways," Frost said. "There are ample fans to attend the events, but will there be enough of a supply of profitable racing to go around with the addition of new series and dates? That's the $100 million question."

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