By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor
High above the roaring engines of the NASCAR Cup Series, an unlikely group took interest in the men and machines screaming through the streets of Chicago, IL.
Rabbi Mordechai Gershon and his wife, Mushky Gershon, of the Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish Center of South Loop held a watch party for NASCAR Cup Series’ Grant Park 220. The short notice decision of hosting the watch party kept the group from watching the failed attempt to resume the opening attraction, the Xfinity Series The Loop 121, which was declared official before halfway due to severe flooding.
Video Courtesy of Rabbi Mordechai Gershon.
Those taking part in the watch party, dubbed “NASCAR Watch Party and the Kabbalah of Cars” were a mix of some that were opposed to the street course race, those who were indifferent and some that were in support. ‘Kabbalah,’ or mysticism, is a part of Jewish tradition that deals with the essence of God, though its’ definition could vary from one group to another.
At least one person, Eileen Libby, came around to be a supporter of the event after initially being opposed as Chabad.org reported. The views of the track from the Gershon’s 20th-Floor apartment allow the attendees to see the bulk of the street circuit.
However, the interest that Rabbi Gershon had in the premier stockcar racing series in North America came before the racecars ever turned a lap around Grant Park. He met and spoke with the Chicago Street Course Track President Julie Giese in the weeks before the race.
Rabbi Gershon also reached out to several Jewish writers within the NASCAR Media Corps to learn more about the sport and inquire about the diversity of religion and if there was a big Jewish community within NASCAR. The most recent Jewish driver to compete in the Cup Series was four-time NASCAR Whelen Euro Series champion Alon Day at Richmond Raceway in 2018.
“I spoke with Mordechai, who never told me he was a Rabbi, the week going into the race,” said Jerry Jordan, founder and editor of Kickin’ the Tires.net.
“I am not Jewish but I had hoped to meet him in person and watch some of the race with his group but unfortunately the weather made it difficult to make it a reality this year. However, we texted back and forth and I assured him that we would be back in 2024 for his next watch party. For me, it was great hearing from people in the city interested in the sport we cover. I realize nothing is perfect and the weather definitely had an impact but I believe, from all of the conversations I had with those in, and around the course, that NASCAR and the racing community made an overall good impression.”
Although NASCAR officials were forced shorten the Cup race by 25 laps due to encroaching darkness Rabbi Gershon and the Jewish community viewing the race enjoyed the show.
“Incredible!” Rabbi Gershon said in a text. “(I) saw the smoke, so assumed it was a winner, but saw them lapping just before. Must’ve been the final lap.”
During a Zoom with two Jewish NASCAR reporters, Rabbi Gershon did mention that he might tune into the race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 8.
The Quaker State 400 Available by Walmart is scheduled for Sunday, July 8, at 7:00 p.m. ET on USA Network. The race will also be broadcast on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.