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 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.

George Phillips

44 Responses to “The Burger Bash Gets A Makeover”

  1. Hi
    Our first Indy coming from the UK. We’re going to the music at Carb Day at the track, do you think we can manage this is well, timing wise?

    • Yes! Especially with the new location. The CNBB is also sort of a come and go thing, meaning it’s OK to get there at 7:30 or 8:00 or to leave by then. We’ve always left the track and made a stop or two before going to the old location. I never felt like I had cheated myself by not being there at the very start. – GP

      • Thanks. I’m not sure when the ‘festivities’ finish at the track but we’ll try and get there…. ☺

        • DZ-groundedeffects Says:

          Hey Trevor! Great that you’re making it over! Several of my cohorts and I will be enjoying some of the Carb Day ‘festivities’ as well. Perhaps we’ll be able to meet up on Friday sometime at IMS. Cheers and welcome to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing!

        • I will just offer up here that if your motivation is to be at the Burger Bash for all the festivities and to get a chance to eat before the Trackside show starts (as I and my group like to do), you may have to skip most of the Carb Day concert. This may change, with the moving of the venue to much closer to the track, but we usually time our departure from IMS to the NE Side (where the Burger Bash used to be) after about 20 minutes worth of the opening act. Granted, this usually gets us out there about an hour before things start, but it gives us a chance to eat and mingle before things really get rolling. But, watching the bulk of the concert and then getting to the Burger Bash after it’s started is just as good an option. YMMV.

  2. Olderfan Says:

    Just so I understand-Curt Cavin organizes and runs what is basically a Fan Boi kegger to celebrate everything Indy, with drivers and auctions and various homages to the 500.

    His parent company ( Gannett/ USA TODAY) gets paid by IMS to write and publish what have been puff pieces on the VICS, yet we should imbue credibility on Cavin as a “journalist”? Please.

    At a point where the 500 and Indycar struggle for recognition, the worst thing to happen is for the public at large to see all this “reporting” and realize that all this is is simply an uber case of being a hometown “homer” ( as Cavin clearly is, or has become). It’s no wonder that among fans and former fans Cavin has zero credibility as a “journalist”.

    If this event is a great idea, and it certainly sounds like it, then let IMS, or one of the remaining sponsors pick up the gauntlet and run it. It’s stinks to high heaven that an alleged “journalist” promotes what is basically a mash note to an event and organization he should be objectively reporting on ( if he wants anyone to think he’s a real reporter).

    And full disclosure: yes, I’m a FORMER fan. I’ve attended a few 500s, and the Indy F1 races, and MotoGP at Indy. What the ICS has evolved into makes me sick. But watching ( or reading) the output of people like Cavin makes me realize that without objective scrutiny of what IMS does, you’re never going to see indycar get anywhere near what it used to be in the eyes of the public. And when you, George, validate what Cavin does, it makes it all the worse. Especially since your history with this blog has been one if being pretty much on the mark, pro and con, with what you write.

    Yes, we can tell that your a big Indycar/Indy 500 fan. But you’ve brought an objectivity to your writing that Cavin seems to have lost.

    • Good Lord! I was just trying to give a little pub to a nice event. I didn’t know this would devolve so quickly into what ails IndyCar. But I’ll take the bait…

      While I appreciate your words about me, I think you’re being very unfair to Curt Cavin. He may be a little kinder in his reporting than Robin Miller, but Robin is more of a columnist that states his opinion. Curt is a reporter who reports facts in an unbiased manner and allows the reader to form their own opinion. He does state his opinion more on Trackside, but I see nothing wrong with that.

      As far as his creating, organizing and hosting this event, while working for The Star – I see nothing wrong with that either. It has absolutely nothing to do with his credibility as a reporter. Like you, I’ve been a fan of this sport for decades. For all the problems and self-inflicted wounds that IndyCar has, I don’t lay a single one at the feet of Curt Cavin. – GP

      • SkipinSC Says:

        Nice restraint, George. I would NOT have been so kind.

        • Olderfan Says:

          Then don’t be. Your”body of work” is readily available here and at Defender’s site.

          Go for Skipper.

        • At this point in the conversation, IndyCar fan and singer/songwriter John Hiatt would probably say something along the lines of “Be careful of any conversation a man starts by calling you skipper” (quote from the song “Wood Chipper” which is well worth a listen). One could also read this as “don’t feed the crapwagoners”.

          Congrats to Curt Cavin for landing what is a very well fitting sponsor, Steak N Shake, for what looks like it might be the best auto racing related party in town. I hope the Jonathan Byrd’s affiliated drivers are still welcome, even though technically, that’s the sponsor’s competition in the marketplace.

          • I didn’t realize that John Hiatt was from Indianapolis until I saw him in concert a few months ago. Has he ever played the Speedway during the 500 weekend. Now, that is a concert I would stay and attend.

      • Olderfan Says:


        I don’t blame Curt Cavin for Indycar’s problems. Rather, he’s a symptom of the larger issue.

        IndyCar was damaged from within, and has fallen so far that it HAS to resort to PAYING for the press it used to get due to its stature and allure.

        But I do see an issue with a “journalist” that should be reporting objectively hosting events that celebrate the 500. I don’t see how anyone could claim to be objective about an event/sport/venue that you’re ( Cavin) actively promoting.

        It would be like a Brian Williams or Dan Rather doing campaign appearances for Hillary Clinton then trying to report on her email scandal. I’m sorry, but either promote or report. You can’t really do both

        • OK, I won’t be kind. You paint yourself as an utter ignoramus in posting BS like that.

          You clearly have no real concept of what the Burger Bash has been about for all these years. The primary purpose was to raise money for the St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf, a special cause to the owners of 96th St. Steakburgers, and the Indy Star’s “Our Children, Our City” campaign. It was NOT a “fan boi keggar” by any means. It has always been a great way for fans to mingle, enjoy a meal, and for many who don’t have access to Gasoline Alley or can’t make it to IMS before the race, to have some contact with the drivers.

          The purpose of the event has not been to “promote” either IMS or the 500.

    • You, sir, are a FOOL, for you obviously know NOTHING about Curt, or Indianapolis newspaper history.

      To imply that Cavin is some sort of hack just shows how little you actually know about my city and its newspapers. Curt Cavin was brought in fresh out of Franklin College over 25 years ago to the then great Indianapolis Star, which was owned at that time by the Pulliams, perhaps you’ve heard of them? He was mentored during his early years by Robin Miller, and although Curt was a rabid basketball fan (and still is) he took to reporting on IndyCar and auto racing like a duck to water.

      A few years back Curt came up with the BB idea to sort of give back to the community. See, he knows how important that race and these drivers are to our city and he always seemed a bit embarrassed that he got access that 98% of us don’t, so he came up with a plan to bring drivers to a location where we could meet them, take selfies with them and hang out to talk racing and enjoy some good burgers and fabulous milkshakes… so sue the guy! NOBODY paid him to do this, it was all on his dime and time.

      So the next time you want to ridicule someone for giving back to their community, why in the hell don’t you do a bit of research first so you won’t come off like the complete moronic asshole you undoubtedly are!



      • Olderfan Says:

        Gee, now there’s an adult response.

        Sorry Phil, my boy, but whether or not you think that Curt “fresh outta Franklin College” is a great guy ( which , by the way , I’m NOT debating) is immaterial. The issue is objectivity. Which gets blown out of the water when the “reporter” becomes a “promoter”. Which in this case he clearly is a promoter; of the city, the event, IMS etc.

        That reality is too bad for you; but you need to deal with it. I’m glad you’re proud of your hometown. It gives you something to latch on to. And please, don’t tell me I don’t know anything about you, or indy. YOU provided a link to your bio so I get where you’re coming from. And I’ve spent more than enough time in Indianapolis in my life to be familiar with it.

        Also, try a reading comprehension course. I NEVER said the Curt was PAID to do this. What I DID say is that IMS/Indycar PAYS his parent company for press coverage. If you don’t think that colors and influences the way IMS and Indycar is reported then I’ve got a bridge to sell you. Two, in fact.

        And it’s always nice to confirm the MO of the challenged indycar fan; when confronted by uncomfortable facts, you always respond with the personal insults and curses. Nice to see that hasn’t changed.

        So run along-aren’t Bob & Tom waiting?

        • Well aren’t you the grumpy guy. I’m new to this forum and have so far enjoyed George’s words very much. Your sort of aggressive invective is pretty tiresome. Some might quote Jack Benny “you need to take more water with it”. Happy trails…

          • I was just reading an article the other day about a company that PAYS people to go to sites like this and hate all over them. They are paid trolls, and it looks like we have one in our midst now, just pathetic….

          • DZ-groundedeffects Says:

            Largely you won’t find much in the way of similarly agitated commentors here nearly as much as you might on others. Longtimers in this forum respect George for what he does out of enjoyment and sharing with others.

          • As do I. ( Georges columns) The point of my observations ( which Phil and most others missed, BADLY) was that it’s not exactly the height of journalistic integrity and objectivity for one of the main reporters of the Indycar series, the 500, and IMS itself, to be staging a homage to the 500.

            Everything else I’ve read in the responses has tried to imply meaning that simply isn’t there.

            Never did I say the event wasn’t a good idea, never did I imply that Curt Cavin isn’t a good guy, or that he has no right to stage this event, if he so desires. The point was that by involving himself in this type of event to the extent that he does, damages his ability to present himself as a “reporter”, as this clearly shows him to be a supporter and promoter, not an objective journalist. And let’s not forget that IMS PAYS his news organization to write about Indycar. ( again, Phil seems to think I said the Cavin was paid to stage the event, but Phil has obvious comprehension problems). Which further blurs the line between reporting and promoting.

            And, sorry Phil, I’m not paid by anyone to write this. You don’t like what I’ve got to say? Don’t read it. Go back to promoting your music gigs.

            And for Ron Ford, you apparently also need a reading comprehension course. It’s not anti Indycar. It’s simply a questioning of ONE reporters objectivity and journalistic integrity. Maybe you and Phil can go together.

    • Ron Ford Says:

      Good God! You could make a funeral seem like fun. Even yours. Especially yours.

    • Ok. I’ll bite too.

      I have a question for you Olderfan-you say you used to be a fan. If that is the case, what hell are you doing reading this blog? If the current ICS makes you sick why are you even paying attention to it? Anyone that claims they are a FORMER fan and then seems to have the time and energy to write the bitch piece you wrote, just screams issues. It sounds like you have an ax to grind and taking it out on a guy like George is misdirected, rude and it shows your ignorance. I hate to break this to you but the Indy 500 is never going to be what it used to be and you need to either accept that or move on. It does not appear that you have moved on. The ol’ days of open innovation, multiple engine manufactures, varied designs, open rule books is a thing of the past and if you cannot accept the current economic reality then there are plenty of other sports out there with wheels to follow but they are all hurting too. So, If you choose to accept modern day reality and want to look at this as an opportunity to embrace change then I suggest you can begin writing an apology for what you wrote.

      I know a lot of older people and you are the antithesis of rigid, grumpy, pessimistic and cantankerous. If nostalgia is your gig , I recommend you visit the museum at IMS and there are plenty of books written about the golden years of the Indy 500. Get on You Tube there is all kinds of stuff. I am sure you are aware of Robin Millers recommended readings. The point is your argument makes no sense and the sport has nowhere to go but up so you can either choose help or not. We are talking about celebrating one of the oldest sporting events in the world and you are bitching about legitimate “objectivity” in journalism? Are you kidding? Since when did objectivity run synonymous with journalism anyway, especially in 2016? We are not talking about world events, terrorist attacks , politics, economics, philosophy, we are talking about IndyCar racing. The more fans it has, the better and I don’t think anyone cares whether Curt Cavin is legitimately objective or not, he is a fan, a reporter, and doing something nice for the community. If you are able to find a problem with that then maybe it is time to find a new interest like croquet or something because the last thing the IndyCar series needs are so called ex- fans like you. Thanks. Have a good day now. Carry on.

    • Allow me to add some more background on the Carb Night Burger Bash, since you don’t really seem to understand what it’s all about, let alone apparently ever having attended one. The genesis of the whole event was back in late-2007 or early-2008, as people would exchange places to go for a good burger with Curt Cavin in his daily Q&A column on the Indy Star website. After a while of folks throwing out good burger places at various IndyCar race locales, somebody threw out the idea of Cavin’s readers and maybe even Curt himself getting together at some such place on a race weekend. Over time, I guess the idea started to make sense to Curt, and he (or somebody connected with him) got the ball rolling for the first event, and Curt mentioned in one of his Q&As that it was going to happen. At first, it was basically intended for fans to just get together and talk racing over a burger. As the months rolled on, Curt, Kevin Lee and the other folks involved with their Trackside show must have decided that it’d be neat to do a live broadcast of the show, with some number of fans in attendance. Later, I’m sure somebody must have figured “well, we have drivers on the radio show as guests more weeks than not, maybe we can get one for this show. It’d be a nice treat for the fans who come out.” So, that first year, Scott Dixon was invited, attended (and made time to pose with folks for pictures, which is a practice that’s been discontinued as the event has grown) and subsequently won the 500 two days later. So, from that first event, where I’d estimate maybe 5-6 dozen people huddled under a couple of pop-up tents in the 96th Street Steakburgers in Plainfield (the only one that’s taken place somewhere other than at the one on 96th Street, until this year’s) on a gusty 50-ish degree evening (I remember shivering pretty severely through my second milkshake that night), it’s grown year by year into the event that it was last year, with likely in excess of 400 people in attendance and 5-6 special guests attending, from current and past IndyCar drivers and legends to IndyCar front office members (the two highlights being a very candid Randy Bernard back in about 2011 and a quite animated Beaux Barfield back in about 2013).

      It’s not an event that “promotes” IndyCar, unless you’re going to also label any event where more than 3-4 people are hanging out and talking about IndyCar as something that “promotes” IndyCar. And if you think that Curt Cavin being “in charge” of the event (and I’m not really sure how much of this he does himself) makes him unwilling to level criticism at IndyCar, then you clearly haven’t been reading his writing or listening to Trackside for the last 7 years. No, he doesn’t lob bombs at IndyCar on a weekly basis like Robin Miller likes to do, but he also seems to better understand that the American sporting and motorsports landscapes have changed since 1975. I’m not sure Robin has fully gotten his head around that (his near weekly criticisms of IMS for holding revenue generating concerts during Race Weekend and his open pining for the abolishing of all non-500 events sure seem to indicate it). Curt’s not as sensationalistic as Robin, but I, for one, am glad he’s not. We only need one Robin Miller, thanks.

      In the meantime, yes, why are you here? There are several things/sports/sanctioning bodies that I’d count myself as a “FORMER fan” of, but I spend basically zero time even thinking about those things, let alone writing diatribe after diatribe about them on a half dozen different forums (which, yes, you started out talking about Cavin’s objectivity, but then you segued into such a diatribe about halfway through your original comment, so don’t just pretend that this is all about Cavin). Life’s too short for that stuff. If I’m a fan of something, I’m a fan, and that doesn’t mean that I love every single thing about it unconditionally. But if I’m not a fan of something, it’s just not on my radar screen anymore. So, what’s your deal? Why have you continued to moan and write that “IndyCar has lost its way” for the last 4+ years while still continuing to follow it and spend your time inserting yourself into conversations that were about entirely other subjects?

  3. Jim Shaver Says:

    I am a long time reader of your blog and first time commenter. I look forward to the new Burger Bash venue even though in it won’t be quite as convenient for us. Keep up the good work.

    OlderFan’s comments are not worthy of my comments.

    Jim Shaver
    Fishers, IN

  4. Mike Silver Says:

    I can’t believe someone would use this particular column to go on an anti IndyCar rant. The CNBB is a great event that has raised substantial money for charity. Indycar’s problems are not the point here.

  5. Ron Ford Says:

    Kudos to Curt, Steak ‘n’ Shake, and everyone involved in the promotion and production of the Burger Bash. Whenever I cannot attend I try to donate to the charity or charities that the Burger Bash supports. For me, just the words burgers and shakes get my interest. Next year I will diet for sure. On the one hand it is good that the growth of the event and the new sponsorship requires a new location. On the other hand I had hoped the new location would be in Speedway, but perhaps there is not a suitable venue there.

  6. billytheskink Says:

    I’m sorry Olderfan, but you completely missed the real problem with the Carb Night Burger Bash… that it happens at the exact same time as the MRTI and USAC races at IRP. I don’t like hard choices.

    • Ron Ford Says:

      Good point. Those are indeed hard choices.

      • Likewise, I was extremely dismayed when the moved the “Night Before” show to the “Day Before” (as that meant that we had to skip out on some of the hanging around IMS part of Legends’ Day) and even more dismayed when it got moved to “Carb Night”. Not cool, bro. Guess I won’t be going to IRP this year…

  7. Cool event, good music, and great people. What’s not to love? Thanks to Steak and Shake once again stepping up to the plate.

  8. I’ll be there!

  9. Dave Crawley Says:

    My wife and I attended our first CNBB in 2012 and now it’s one of the highlights of race weekend. We enjoy the atmosphere and the opportunity to be around good Indycar fans. Kevin and Curt are just genuinely good people and it’s a privilege to attend this fun and wholesome event.

  10. hey George. hope to meet you there it will my first one. main reason has been its always been out of the way. always listened. and before that it always conflicted with the hooiser hundred . so im looking forward to my first and im sure not my last.

  11. Thanks George. I will plan to attend when I finally get to a 500 race. (Maybe 2018). I expect a full report as always.

  12. I just want to post how much I love Burgers and Shakes. Though I’m super bummed that I wont make it this year (just cant afford it) I will plan to be there when I go (hopefully next year).

  13. Chris Earley Says:

    Just found out about this event today and am definitely attending. Coming in from Colorado with my son (22). Been to two previous races (2000, 2002) but this is his first. I know drivers attend but is this a practical event for autographs? He is a huge Kanaan fan

    • Chris Earley Says:

      Never mind on the autograph question. Read someone’s lengthy description above (in response to a naysayer) and now know the answers is no. Still sounds like a great event

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: