JOLIET – Race Fan Rally brought out the usual blend of racing enthusiasts and novices mixed with some just along for the ride on Thursday.
“Not really,” Sue Kloth’s daughters replied when asked if they were race fans after getting their photos taken in front of one of the cars on display in downtown Joliet.
“They get dragged into it,” said Kloth, a race fan from Carol Stream.
Kloth comes to Race Fan Rally and the NASCAR races every year and runs into a lot of friends from the Carol Stream area.
“It’s just fun to walk around and see the NASCAR stuff,” she said.
Most people who were walking up and down Chicago Street would agree.
“I like seeing the people, looking at the cars,” said P.J. Londrie of Joliet. “You can take your time and walk around and do what you need to do.”
Londrie has tickets for all three races, and pit passes, too, this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, including the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup on Sunday.
“I got the whole setup. I love this,” Londrie said.
“It’s very family friendly,” said Robert Rajaballey, a racing fan from Crest Hill who came with his son, Ryan, 10, for their first time at Race Fan Rally.
“This is cool,” Ryan said. “You get to sit in the cars. You get to walk around and hear all the music.”
Noise and speed
Simple pleasures are a big part of Race Fan Rally.
Rocky Ausec of Rockdale was there with his 1971 Mustang Mach I Classic Alcohol Funny Car, a big draw because of the thunderous noise the dragster makes when he starts it up.
“A lot of people are asking me when I’m going to start it,” said Ausec, who had ignition scheduled for three times during Race Fan Rally. “They like it. It’s loud and sounds powerful.”
Felipe Hernandez was taking pictures of the 1971 Mustang Mach I for a friend who lives in Downers Grove. Hernandez said he’s not a race fan himself but his friend “loves to see these photos. He loves this stuff.”
Race Fan Rally brings thousands to downtown Joliet each year. It’s the city’s kickoff to NASCAR race weekend.
“It’s nice for the locals who can’t go to the NASCAR races,” said Richard Pursell of Joliet, who does go to the races every year. Race Fan Rally gives everyone a taste of NASCAR, he said.
Denita Perry of Joliet said she doesn’t know much about NASCAR. But she did work at Chicagoland Speedway for one race and noticed a lot of Chevrolet Monte Carlos on the track.
“I have a Monte Carlo,” she said. “One day I want to go on the track. I like to speed.”
Race Fan Rally features interviews with drivers and bands on the main stage. Vendors of all sorts line Chicago Street, including many downtown merchants.
“Why wouldn’t you take advantage of this opportunity?” said Jeff Star, who was showing guitars for sale from Kula’s Jewelry & Loan in a display in front of the Chicago Street pawn shop.
Tania Garcia, co-owner of the Tin Roof restaurant, said an event like Race Fan Rally “is free publicity for us. A lot of people that come to these events don’t normally come downtown. It’s a good way to spread the word.”
Salvador Lozano, promoter for the US 41 Speedway, a race track for go-karting in Lake Village, Indiana, said he has come the past four years to Race Fan Rally, with his display of go-karts that can go up to 70 mph, in part to bring attention to the track. But he just likes the atmosphere, too.
“It’s fun to be here,” Lozano said. “Anything that has to do with racing, I like to be part of.”