The Burger Bash Gets A Makeover
For those that read this site and/or are regular listeners to Trackside, you’ve undoubtedly at least heard of the Carb Night Burger Bash – even if you’ve never attended. The name says it all. It takes place on the evening of Carb Day – the Friday before the Indianapolis 500. There are burgers and milkshakes available for purchase and there is one underlying theme – anything to do with the Indianapolis 500.
This event is the creation of Curt Cavin of The Indianapolis Star, although his cohort, Kevin Lee, has been right there with him since the inaugural event in 2008. Many of the drivers that will be driving in the Indianapolis 500 just two days later, will attend the Burger Bash. Fans can get up close to many of the drivers – and not just backmarkers. In fact, there was a five-year stretch through the previous eight events where the winner of the Indianapolis 500 had been an attendee of the Burger Bash just two nights earlier.
Then there is the auction. Since the very beginning, there has been an auction for charity. Drivers, teams and fans donate various items of interest to Curt throughout the entire year. Anything from race-worn driver’s gloves to autographed helmets and unique signed racing artwork is up for grabs. All proceeds go to the various charities that are announced prior to each year’s event.
The previous eight events took place north of town, at 96th Street Steakburgers. You could go in and buy your burger and either eat it inside or join the festivities in the parking lot just east of the free-standing building in front of a major shopping center. Each year, the crowd grew. Last year, the parking lot filled up and spilled into the un-landscaped dirt lot.
Progress has hit the 2016 Carb Night Burger Bash. It has gained a corporate sponsor with Indianapolis-based Steak ‘n Shake. Most importantly for fans to take note of – it has a new home. This year’s event, and I assume those in the foreseeable future, will take place at The Pavilion at Pan Am; which is in the heart of downtown Indianapolis – just a couple of blocks north of Lucas Oil Stadium. To top things off, there will be a local band, The Flying Toasters, which is touted as a great 70’s and 80’s cover-band.
So since it now seems like the Burger Bash is all grown up, it would be safe to assume that the cost has gone up, wouldn’t it? Well, you would be wrong. It will still cost the same to go to this year’s Burger Bash as it has for year’s past – and that would be nothing. There is no cost to attend and literally have a front-row seat to all of the festivities. Nor does it cost anything to be right up front with the band when they start playing. Your only cost will be for whatever food you eat or if you care to participate in the auction.
There is one added cost this year that you didn’t have at the old location – parking. But if you listened to Trackside last night, you heard that there are several parking garages adjacent to Pan Am Plaza that are reasonable (four hours for five dollars).
It seems that the drivers are the main reason for the change in venue. With all of their weekend commitments, it is a lot more convenient for them to have the Burger Bash downtown. Selfishly, the new location is a lot more convenient for me also. It’s much closer to the track, where we will be coming from and it’s also more convenient to our hotel. I’m guessing that traffic won’t be a problem because most traffic will be outbound from downtown, late Friday afternoon.
I’ve not been to every Burger Bash. In fact, I didn’t start going until 2013 – but I haven’t missed one since. It’s a nice low-key break in what is a very busy month of May. It’s a nice distraction away from the track. Everyone goes there to relax. The drivers aren’t headed to the pits or back to their garage for a debriefing. They are there to be in touch with fans and to be interviewed by Curt Cavin.
Personally, one of my favorite things about the Burger Bash is the chance to mingle and meet a lot of readers of this site. Many of you attend each year and have been good about coming up and introducing yourself to me. Last year, I got to meet “Bob” and his wife from Florida. Other than the fact they were Florida Gator fans, we had a great time getting to know them. I see many frequent commenters from here on a regular basis. The atmosphere lends itself to an evening of low-key and enjoyable conversation.
But if you want to pay attention, Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee conduct that night’s episode of Trackside live and on-location while we watch. For those that can’t be there, it is also streamed live on IndyStar.com. This year, they will feature large video boards for the latecomers who will have to sit in the outdoor plaza. If it’s a nice evening, that may be a more desirable spot. Last night, they said there would be plenty of chairs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring your favorite folding chair.
Steak ‘n Shake will be selling burgers, fries and milk shakes; including Graham Rahal’s own frozen concoction – a chocolate shake with m&m’s.
Some of the drivers scheduled to attend are the aforementioned Rahal as well as Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Ed Carpenter, but chances are – there wil be many others. I would also be shocked if Pippa Mann is not there, as she has been to every one I’ve attended.
The Carb Night Burger Bash has become part of my race weekend routine. By the size of the crowd each year, apparently many other people can say the same thing. So if you’re an out-of-towner like we are, or if you live in the area and you’ve never been to it – do yourself a favor and head downtown early evening on Friday May 27th. You’ll enjoy some good food, have a chance to bid on some one-of-a-kind racing items and get to see some top Verizon IndyCar Series drivers up close. Most importantly, it’s an evening of great fellowship with other IndyCar fans just like you and me.
Plus, after an afternoon with the Carb Day crowd, it’s good to be around some real fans – especially some that are sober and relatively clean.
I wonder if Curt Cavin had any idea what his event would become when he started it in 2008. He should be very proud the way his efforts have paid off. The Carb Night Burger Bash has grown every year. Consequently, so have the donations it provides for charity. I’ll be there and I hope you can be as well.