Contestants slogged through mud, jumped over flames and climbed walls Saturday in a Warrior Dash at Chicagoland Speedway.
It was hardly the sort of race envisioned when the speedway was built in 2001 for NASCAR and Indy-style racing.
But making the facility available for a 5K obstacle course is the sort of thing that speedway management has done in recent years, increasing accessibility to people beyond racing fans.
More than 100 events and activities have been scheduled at the raceway this year, many of them race related but not all.
This spring, the speedway hosted its first lacrosse tournament. Ultimate 5v5 Street Soccer is coming in August.
Track management in recent years has opened Chicagoland Speedway for a variety of events, making greater use of a facility that hosts a NASCAR race only one week of the year.
The speedway is home to the “largest single-day sporting event” in Illinois when NASCAR comes to town, spokesman Denny Hartwig said.
Smaller events keep the place busy the remaining 364 days.
“The biggest point we want to drive home is the facility is so diverse, and it’s a multipurpose facility,” Hartwig said. “We’ve had dog shows here, a gun show, Men Who Cook. We’ve had concerts.”
Men Who Cook is an annual fundraiser for the Will County Children’s Advocacy Center. The event, which features amateur male cooks concocting their favorite dishes, has grown to the point that more than 1,000 attendees were expected for the 10th Men Who Cook at the speedway in 2018.
In addition to providing extra space to accommodate people, the speedway provided an outdoor setting for al fresco dining.
Other nonprofit events that have been moved to the speedway over the years have included the Santa Fun Run 5K, a fundraiser organized by the Joliet Township High School Alumni Association with the speedway’s own R.A.C.E. Foundation.
Even NASCAR race weekend has become an opportunity to attract more diverse people to Chicagoland Speedway, Hartwig said.
NASCAR weekend, June 27 to 30, this year featured “Smokedown at Chicagoland Speedway,” a competitive barbecue event sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Association and attended by such renowned pitmasters as Chris Lilly, Myron Mixon and Ray Lampe, who is also known as Dr. BBQ.
Noted Hartwig, “We had some of the biggest names in barbecue here.”