When Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a deal to bring NASCAR to Chicago’s downtown streets, the idea was met locally with surprise and bewilderment.

Chicagoans have a deep, if often unrequited, love for their sports teams, but a limited fluency in the world of stock car racing. NASCAR, for its part, had never sent its top drivers to race amid the sharp corners and manhole covers of city streets, mostly favoring neatly paved tracks in places like Daytona Beach, Fla., and Talladega, Ala.

However unlikely a union between the country’s most popular racing series and its third-largest city may have been, it is now a reality.