Indy MotoGP Primer

Everything you need to know about Indy's first USGP

If you’re planning to attend the inaugural Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix in September, you’re not alone. Over 150,000 fans are expected, a number that would overwhelm the established USGP in Monterey, California. Indianapolis, home of the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400, can handle a crowd twice this size without breaking a sweat. If you’re not a frequent visitor to Indianapolis, here are a few tips to help you get the most from your weekend. And a map to get you started.

If you’re riding or driving in, the Circle City is easy to get around. I-465 is the circle freeway. I-65 runs through the city from northwest to southeast; I-70 cuts east and west. I-74 brings you in from Champaign and Cincinnati, and I-69 from the northeast; both freeways terminate at I-465. (I-74 becomes Crawfordsville Rd. and will take you directly to the Motor Speedway.) Meridian St. separates east and west (like all good meridians do) and is the primary route to the north suburbs. Washington Street (US 40) separates north from south. From Meridian St. north, the east/west streets are numbered, ten to the mile.

You’re probably aware of the event schedules for MotoGP and AMA Flat Track. But you might be wondering where the best places are to hang out. What else is going on? What about some cool day trips? And is there anywhere you can take your bike to crank some revs or get airborne for a moment or two?

Downtown (more or less 4 blocks in any direction from Monument Circle) is great if you’ve got a pocket full of cash or credit cards – plenty of fine restaurants, great bars, and live music. Bike parking will be plentiful on Friday and Saturday evenings on Meridian St. south of the Circle, where the city is closing the street and providing security. From there, you can walk to the major hotels and restaurants. Campers will want to check this campgrounds link.

If you’re not the downtown type, be sure to check out Broad Ripple, Fountain Square, and the Arts District. There’s always something going on, and that will be especially true during race weekend. Speedway, home of the track and the locally famous Mug ‘n’ Bun restaurant, is the epicenter of race weekend and a good place to get faced and/or arrested. There are a few “gentlemen’s clubs” in town (Google “show club Indianapolis”), although I’ve never once seen a gentleman in any of them. Compared to their ilk in other cities, they’re pretty tame.
Most of the cycle dealers will be having open houses over race weekend. Check your manufacturer’s site for details.

Some of my friends have suggested a few nice day trips, if you want to get out of the city for a while. There’s also a brand new curvy section of North Illinois Street in Carmel (roughly between 116th St and 136th St) where you can test your bike’s top end. I’m also told that on Franklin Road, just south of Washington Street, you can go airborne without too much trouble.

'Over 150,000 fans are expected, a number that would overwhelm the established USGP in Monterey, California'

On Saturday, there’ll be plenty of live music. Out at Verizon Music Center you have the all-day-into-the-night X-Fest with like 20 heavy metal bands. If country music gets you going, there’s a Kenny Chesney concert Saturday night at the brand new Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Colts and site of the 2012 Super Bowl. The Slippery Noodle downtown has been bringing great live jazz for decades.

Several events have yet to be publicized. On Thursday, later in the afternoon, Red Bull is sponsoring an “impromptu” jump. They’ll be closing Broad Ripple Avenue from around 4 pm until maybe 7 pm. (If you go, be sure to act surprised.) MotoGP is also sponsoring an exhibition riding competition on Friday and again on Saturday at the War Memorial, corner of Meridian and North Streets. More info should be forthcoming on the MotoGP website any day now.

If you’re planning to be downtown on Saturday night, brace yourself. The south half of Monument Circle will be closed, due to an Indianapolis Symphony celebration. (If you were planning on taking a victory lap around the Circle during your visit, forget it.) There will be thousands of race fans hanging out after the trick-riding exhibition at the War Memorial, flying their colors and twisting throttles.

The Kenny Chesney concert will let out around 11 pm, throwing another 60,000 half-drunk fans into the fray. The AMA flat-track race at the Fairgrounds will let out around the same time; expect a Harley parade down Fall Creek Parkway, ending at Monument Circle around midnight. A few metal-heads will probably find their way from Verizon to downtown in time to add to the atmospherics.

If you’re flying in, make your reservations now, as the airlines are cutting flights. Motels are starting to fill up, especially the close-in suburban ones where you can gaze lovingly at your machine from the window in your room. Indianapolis weather in mid-September is generally perfect. Have a great, safe time!

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