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NASCAR: Elk Grove Village to sponsor downtown Chicago race driver next year, continuing to portray itself as a manufacturing hub

NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski roared to Elk Grove High School on Monday in his No. 6 Ford Mustang, spinning the car in a tight circle to announce his arrival.

Keselowski, a former NASCAR Cup Series champion, will race the streets of Chicago next year, under sponsorship from Elk Grove Village. The Chicago Street Course NASCAR, scheduled for July 2, will take stock car racing to a 2.2-mile course on Michigan Avenue, DuSable Lake Shore Drive and around Grant Park, with the start line and arrival at Buckingham Fountain.

The village will spend $400,000 a year for at least two years to put its “Makers Wanted” logo on the car to promote what officials say is the largest contiguous business park in the country.

Previously, the village sponsored NCAA Bahamas Bowl football and the U.S. Olympics track and field and wrestling teams. This time, Mayor Craig Johnson said he wanted to get involved in the sport that would attract the most in-person spectators, some 75 million people a year.

Johnson said the “off the beaten path” promotions were worth investing in to draw attention to the 5-square-mile industrial park with some 3,600 businesses next to O’Hare International Airport.

Keselowski, 38, won the NASCAR Cup Series in 2012 with Team Penske, which he left to become part-owner of Team Roush Fenway Keselowski, or RFK Racing. And since Keselowski also owns a 3D printing company in Statesville, North Carolina, his experience and advocacy for manufacturing makes the partnership a good fit, Johnson said.

In a sign that past promotions have worked, Johnson said the business park had a vacancy rate of 1%. A Love’s fueling station opened in the village, he said, after an executive heard about the village through the Bahama Bowl. While auto racing isn’t as big in the Midwest as it is in the South, the mayor said, NASCAR racing will raise its profile.

“With the race being right next door in Chicago…we want to make sure we’re part of it,” the mayor said. “It will bring a lot of publicity.”

“We are super excited that this partnership has formed,” Keselowski said. “It’s not just about sponsorship or partnership; it’s something we truly live and breathe with our commitment to manufacturing. … It’s so important, not just for our economy and for our children, but for our nation and our security.

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The cost of promotion, like other sponsorships, is to be paid from a business park tax increment fund. Under TIF, any increase in property tax revenue is used to pay for improvements to the business park, rather than going to other taxing bodies such as school districts.

But Johnson said the village would also make a $750,000 investment to build an industrial kitchen for high school culinary studies.

NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski, second from right, talks to students and staff inside the state-of-the-art manufacturing lab at Elk Grove Village High School on October 17, 2022.

The mayor and Keselowski toured the school’s fabrication lab, which featured computer numerical control production. The students there were working on a car to compete in a racing competition to see who could go the farthest on a single gallon of gas.

The school also hosted the village’s manufacturing and technology exhibition on Monday, with several dozen business people gathering to attract investment and workers.

Brian O’Rourke, vice president and chief operating officer of Broetje Automation, which was the first tenant of the technology park in the village, and manufactures automated machinery and robotics for aerospace.

“The toughest challenge I have right now is finding qualified people,” O’Rourke said. “So if (car sponsorship) gets out there and people think of us…then I’m all for it.”

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