More than 300,000 people are expected to flood Indianapolis this weekend for the 100th running of the Indy 500. The inaugural race in 1911 had a $14,250 purse and took just under seven hours to complete with an average car speed of 74.602 miles per hour. Thanks to new car technology and corporate sponsorship, the race has gotten faster and more lucrative nearly every year since. Last year’s Indy 500 was completed twice as fast as the first, with an average speed of 161.623 mph—and a $2.75 million winner’s purse to Dario Franchitti.
As the race has evolved, so have the nightlife options in Indianapolis and neighboring Speedway, Indiana during one of racing's most hyped weekends of the year. We enlisted current Indianapolis and former Speedway resident Kevin Eckert, a motorsports journalist, to provide us with the can't-miss spots of the weekend. After all, Indy has a 3 a.m. last call.
Chow down. If you’re in Speedway, population of just under 13,000, be sure to try a slab of ribs at the authentic Southern barbeque joint King Ribs. If you’re still hungry, try the cheese pie for dessert. King Ribs is open till 11 p.m. on Fridays and 1 a.m. on Saturday, perfect for those who plan on partying non-stop. Eckert says, “They’re probably our best ribs within semi-walking distance.”
Drink and be cherry. If you’re downtown, try the Slippery Noodle Inn, a landmark blues bar with live music every night of the week. This place is so old the adjacent inn used to be a stop on the Underground Railroad. There's nothing fancy on the menu—just your standard bar food with American beers on tap. If you’re looking for a wider selection of beer, try Union Jack Pub in Speedway, the unofficial meeting spot before and after races. There are more than 100 beers to choose from, the pizzas have won a few “best of” awards and people-watching is at a premium. “You might see a competitor in there—a driver, owner, or a mechanic,” Eckert says.
Girls, girls, girls. Don't get your boxers in a bunch, the drivers haven't stolen all of the single ladies. Here are two options for adult entertainment: Club Venus is a topless bar in Speedway where strippers have worked their pole positions since the 1950s. It’s a local spot, but the talent rises this time of year. For something more upscale, check out the Red Garter, which is conveniently located across the street from the Slippery Noodle. [Insert gentlemen's club joke here.]
Don’t forget about the race. For the best place to watch the race inside the speedway, Eckert—who’s been to five races—suggests you grab a seat in Turn One.
“Going into Turn One, it can be hot,” Eckert says. “Last year it was 90 degrees, and it’s a long race. There are two tiers, and you want to get in the shaded area. If you get in Turn One you can see the cars coming in the front stretch. It’s intense. There’s no seat where you can see everything. It’s too big. For Joe Fan, I would say high up in Turn One, under the shade is perfect. And if you’re up far enough you can see the pit stops.”