Drew Brown of successful Trackhouse Racing in NASCAR is a product of the Southside and a graduate of Perry Meridian High School. He has been involved as media relations director for several NASCAR teams for several years. Trackhouse Racing’s NASCAR Cup drivers include two-time race winner Ross Chastain, Daniel Suarez, and Chicago street race winner Shane van Gisbergen.
(SOUTHSIDER VOICE FILE PHOTO)
Former Southsider Drew Brown recently relived NASCAR’s longest day into night, the aftermath of the stock car group’s first-ever street race in downtown Chicago.
Brown, a Perry Meridian High School graduate, is the senior media relations director for Trackhouse Racing, the team that won the historic street race July 2 with New Zealand three-time Supercar champion Shane van Gisbergen who stunned all NASCAR Cup drivers with his street course talent.
“You don’t get to enjoy these victories for very long,” observed Brown on July 5 at Trackhouse Racing, co-owned by Justin Marks of Nashville and international star Pitbull. “We’re preparing for the next race at Atlanta (Sunday). This is two weeks in a row of winning races, so we are on a good pace.”
Van Gisbergen was part of the team’s Project91, an extension of Marks’ efforts to attract international drivers to Cup racing.
Brown took time to review the lead-up to the street race and the weekend that featured a lightning-shortened but official Xfinity race July 1 and the 75-lap NASCAR Cup race July 2 on the 2.2-mile street course.
“We were surprised at how easy it was to get back and forth; how smooth it went,” Brown said. “We got in our full allotment of practice and qualifying for the Cup race. The weather had no impact on us until Sunday. I’ve never seen so much rain in one day in my life, and it was a cold rain, not a warm summer rain.”
Brown and Trackhouse team members arrived June 30 via team charter flights from Statesville, N.C. to Gary, and then bused into downtown Chicago. Teams stayed in downtown hotels, all within a mile of the course that featured Lake Shore Drive, Michigan Avenue, and scenic Buckingham Fountain.
The official National Weather Service count was a record 3.35 inches of rain, but many Chicago areas had up to nine inches that caused streets to flood. Downtown on the streets used for the Cup race, standing water and nearly daylong deluge wreaked havoc with nearby concerts, forcing three concert cancellations and drenching fans who ventured outdoors.
Cut by 25 laps due to pending darkness, Brown said team members left downtown Chicago, boarded buses for Gary and arrived back in North Carolina at 3 a.m. on July 3.
The Chicago event was a big risk for NASCAR at an estimated cost of $500 million to put on the race, set up protective barriers, block some streets several weeks ahead to construct grandstand seats, with an estimated $100 million economic impact. Some downtown streets will remain blocked until July 15 as the post-race teardown continues. The rain affected projected crowd estimates. And most drivers who expressed pre-event apprehension had mostly favorable comments about the course.
According to NASCAR’s Julie Giese, 80 percent of the tickets sold were to new NASCAR fans.
NASCAR officials created a massive event, the first year of a three-year agreement that will be evaluated by NASCAR and elected Chicago officials, including a new mayor. The positives included enthusiastic spectators, the most-watched race on the NBC network since the 2017 Indianapolis 500 and redeveloping post-Covid tourism in downtown Chicago. The final evaluation will measure the financial impact versus inconvenience and aggravation to Chicagoans.
Brown’s only recommendation, other than dry weather, was for a second walkover bridge for easier access for participants and spectators.
“We (Trackhouse Entertainment Group) were able to entertain a lot of people and also sponsor-wise,” Brown observed. “This was a new and exciting opportunity. It’s not tough to sell Chicago with nice hotels, shops, restaurants, theaters and museums.”
Brown is a product of Perry Township schools, Burkhart and MacArthur elementaries and Perry Meridian. He is a Ball State University graduate. Brown and his wife Karyn have three children. He is the son of Emerson and Sandra Brown.
The team took in a Chicago Cubs-Philadelphia Phillies game where the ceremonial first pitch and seventh-inning rendition of “Take me out to the Ball Game” involved NASCAR drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Harrison Burton, and John Hunter Nemechek at Wrigley Field.
Following the street race, Chastain had two wins and was third in points with teammate Daniel Suarez 17th and needing a win to qualify for The Chase. The next Cup race is Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The Cup series returns to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course Sunday, Aug. 13.
(Getty Photo by Sean Gardner for NASCAR)