Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the most famous racetrack in America with the bricks, the tradition and the spectacle. However, that tradition is for IndyCar racing and not so much for NASCAR.
While the track opened in 1909, NASCAR has only been racing at the track since 1994. The NASCAR event has often been described as “a snooze-fest.” That doesn’t even include the tire debacle race in 2008 when NASCAR was forced to throw a caution every nine laps due to faulty tires.
Since then, NASCAR has focused intensely on improving the racing at Indianapolis in an attempt to please the fans. So, Stadium Journey visited the hallowed grounds of Indy to see what the NASCAR experience is like.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Usually at a NASCAR race, there is such a plethora of food, it is almost overwhelming. Unfortunately, with Indy being built in 1909, it is not designed for excessive food stands.
That's not to say that Indy doesn't have food, they have plenty, just not the expected gluttony of food options one usually sees at modern sporting events.
What Indy does offer is a nice collection of standard food options and at an average price. They offer staples like an Indy dog ($3), a brickyard burger ($5), bratwurst ($4), nachos ($3), track fries ($3), and peanuts ($2). I tried the burger and it was above average for sports concessions.
If you want to get a little more exotic, you could easily find smaller food carts that offered things such as smoked turkey legs ($8), pulled pork BBQ ($6), and biscuit & gravy ($4). At some of the bigger stands, they had Italian sausage ($7), Philly cheesesteak ($7), taco salad ($7), and a walking taco ($5).
Since the Brickyard 400 is held in late July, it is usually hot so drinks are something nearly every guest is going to purchase. Sadly, this is where Indy seems to have outrageous prices. 20oz bottled water ($4), 20oz bottled soda ($4), 12oz beer can ($5), 16oz Fosters ($7), Mike's hard lemonade ($6), and a bloody Mary ($6).
Thankfully fans are allowed to bring in a small soft-sided cooler with cans to help offset the concession costs. Also, there is a huge area of food across the street from the main grandstands that offers slightly more affordable food and some different options.
One more thing I found interesting was that the track sold cigarettes ($8).
The atmosphere is great. It's NASCAR and it's Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Fans are allowed to cross over the track, get within feet of the cars in the garage area and even kiss the bricks at the start/finish line before the race.
The sound system is fairly good for a race track and the pre-race ceremony is always top notch. A really enjoyable experience at one of the iconic venues in all of sports.
The real big negative to the speedway is the area where it is located. While there has been some revitalization on Main Street, the general area isn't very nice. A large number of buildings are a bit run down and in disrepair.
If you don't mind spending money, Dawson's on Main is a great place. The potato soup is amazing as are the crab cakes. If you want a place that is easier on the wallet, try The Tamale Place, where you can get 3 good tacos for $7.25. Just don't expect to make any "special requests."
If you are looking for more of a bar atmosphere, you are going to need to go downtown. The entire area around Meridian Street is full of bars. Some of the better bars are Scotty's Brewhouse and Kilroy's Bar & Grill.
The crowd is a mix between the more corporate IndyCar fans and the more blue-collar fan base of NASCAR. As always, be prepared to see anything when it comes to NASCAR fans. To call them passionate is an understatement.
The race draws plenty of fans, but the track has so many seats that it looks like there is no one in attendance. This is mostly due to having so many seats for the Indy 500 each May. Attendance is still well over 100,000 and the fans get loud.
Getting around Indianapolis Motor Speedway during Indy 500 weekend can be a bit of an issue, but they have 350,000 fans in attendance. For NASCAR, since the track is built for a bigger audience, you can move around fairly well. There is plenty of parking, although it will cost you. Just don't park in the areas that say "no parking on race day," because they will tow you.
Bathrooms could be updated and cleaned a little better, but the track is over 100-years old. It is nice that they block off Georgetown Street so pedestrians have plenty of room to walk around.
Attending a race at a historic venue is always neat. And the NASCAR tickets cost less than an Indy 500 ticket and are easier to get. Combine that with the addition of the Nationwide and Grand Am support races and you can have a great weekend at a decent price.
The one drawback here is the racing isn't the best. If NASCAR could fix the racing a bit to make more passing then this would easily be a full, five star rating.
I love that fans are allowed to roam the front stretch and get near the pits before the race. There was a constant line of people getting their photo taken while kissing the bricks and in front of the winner's trophy. It also was nice to see them offer pace car rides around the track.
The museum is amazing and worth all five points here alone. Just don't try to visit on race day as it is too busy. The final point is for the free trolley rides from parking areas to points of interest inside the track such as the souvenir haulers and the food court.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a historic place and well worth a visit. I love going there and will definitely do back again.
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