A Good Problem to Have

Help me solve a dilemma. I have a friend who is a racing fan in Indianapolis. He goes to the Indianapolis 500 annually, as well as one or two other races each year – but usually those at IMS. He sent me an e-mail earlier this week saying that he wants to take his teenage (early teens) son to one of two races – Road America or Nashville – and wanted to know what I thought.

Keep in mind, these are two racing venues he’s never been to. Some of you may have been surprised at my answer. Although I live in Nashville and am a big proponent of the Music City Grand Prix; I suggested Road America without even giving it much thought.

To my surprise, he argued with me – at first, at least.

My logic is this; Nashville is a fun town to go to. But if you are staying near the track and you are looking for things to do once track activity has haled for each day, there is not a ton of things to do that would be appropriate to have your adolescent child alongside for. There are nice (code: expensive) restaurants that will be packed, and there are honky-tonks serving up about any type of adult beverage and any kind of music, country and other, that you could imagine. I’m not sure that’s where you’d want to go with your thirteen year-old in tow.

I thought that Road America offered a much more family-oriented atmosphere. I suggested the two of them could camp onsite. Neither of them like to camp, which I can certainly relate to. If I never camp again, it’ll suit me fine. That’s not just because I’m old. I didn’t like camping when I was in my twenties.

I suggested that they would both enjoy renting a gold cart. What thirteen year-old wouldn’t love driving a golf cart around the rolling hills of Road America? When I told him the price was a little north of $300 for the weekend, he balked at that.

While I love the Music City Grand Prix, the parking there is not ideal. Unless fans wanted to pay out the nose for one of the very few parking spots, they had to park in a downtown parking garage with a three-day pass and walk across one of the bridges that is not the race track, to get to the pits/paddock area. Parking is plentiful at Road America.

While Nashville will obviously have more good restaurants than Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin; don’t assume that the area suffers from a lack of fine restaurants. The restaurants in Elkhart Lake, nearby Plymouth, Kohler, Sheboygan and Fond du Lac are excellent …and a fraction of the cost of what you will find in downtown Nashville, or even in the outskirts of Nashville.

Nashville offers the breathtaking view of race cars on the bridge crossing the Cumberland River, with Nissan Stadium serving as a backdrop. Road America offers breathtaking views at almost every vantage point surrounding the 4.0 mile natural terrain road course.

Temporary street courses are choppy by nature. Concrete barriers appear out of nowhere for no apparent reason, making it sometimes tough to navigate for fans. Road America flows with all kinds of scenic trails that you sometimes have to look for. Granted, given the massive area involved – it would be tough to be on foot all weekend at Road America. There are no golf carts at the Music City Grand Prix. Everyone, including Roger Penske, is on foot using the footbridge that crosses the main straightaway and leads to the paddock area. There is not near as much walking at Nashville, but you’ll definitely get your steps in each day.

As the name suggests, the Music City Grand Prix does offer a lot of live music on multiple stages. Road America lets the racing engines provide the music.

It’s a tough call, but I suggested he take his teenage son to Road America, and then he and his wife can come alone for the Music City Grand Prix in August. That way, he can experience both track experiences for himself and keep everyone in his family happy. As of this writing, he is still undecided.

If you had his situation and could only choose one, which would you suggest? You already know that I suggested Road America, and I’ve laid out my reasons why. Do you agree with me, or would you suggest Nashville? Let us know in the comments section. It’s a win-win in my book, whichever he chooses. It’s a good problem to have.

George Phillips

17 Responses to “A Good Problem to Have”

  1. Dave from Mukwonago Says:

    I’m ashamed to say I’ve been an IndyCar fan for decades, but haven’t been to Road America even though it’s only 1.5 hours away. I plan to fix that this year taking my 18 year old son. I didn’t go to Nashville last year, but I agree with George. The atmosphere will have more of a family focus and will be loaded with true race fans. Haven’t stated that I don’t think either is a bad choice. What could be better than taking your child to an IndyCar race?

  2. Road America is a classic natural terrain road course , I would choose it every time over a temporary street course , Except for Monaco.

    I am amazed any road racing fan can reside 90 minutes from RA and have never attended an event there. However I know there are folks who live in and around Indianapolis and have never attended a race there as well. Madness in my opinion

  3. My friend and I are trying to decide what ticket package to get for this years race at Road America. First time for each of us. Geographically we’re close to Nashville but it was a ‘no-brainer’.

  4. If I lived in Indy, I would be very hesitant to travel to Nashville this year for one reason: last year’s race was terrible. It may have been a fun event, but I don’t really care much about the rest of the stuff that surrounds the race if the race isn’t good. I know that there will be some changes in the configuration of the course that might improve the racing. Maybe they’ll work, and maybe they won’t, but I’d need to see it to believe it. So, given the options, I’d definitely go with RA. But what I’d really do is go to Gateway or Iowa, each of which is roughly as far from Indy as RA or Nashville, because I’d rather watch oval racing.

  5. I haven’t been to Nashville so perhaps I shouldn’t comment but I would chose Road America. The weather is usually perfect, I fear Nashville would be too hot. There are plenty of places to watch the race and spread out, I imagine much more crowded conditions in Nashville (no Covid concerns,I just don’t like huge crowds). Access to drivers and teams is fantastic at Road America. I have had actually conversations with AJ, Mario and even Doug Boles at RA. Parking and paddock is included in your ticket price so if you don’t camp or get the golf cart it can be very affordable. You can bring in your own food and drink if you’d like.
    I hope to make it to Nashville one of these years but I plan to always attend Road America.

  6. billytheskink Says:

    Road America is the obvious answer, BUT…

    I don’t think Nashville would be a bad choice. My first in-person Indycar race was a street race, and one that rivaled Nashville in being an incident-filled mess on a course that fans and drivers alike never loved. I was 13 then.

    Look at me now.

  7. If just one certainly Road America. The area is drop dead beautiful and the corners on track awesome! Concessions great and reasonable . It is a cathedral to road racing. I stay, along with some of the media, in Port Washington. A great town right on the lake. Fun town

  8. James T Suel Says:

    I think Road America is the right choice. It’s maybe the best real road course in the US. Nashville has a lot of potential and could well be a great street race in the near future. But I think RA will be the one to take this young fan .

  9. northeastvista Says:

    Your recommendation of RA for the venue with the teenager and Nashville for visit with your bride is spot on! Road America is just all around fun, especially for a family. Have you ever noticed all the families at RA? My grandson wanted to go to RA because they offer Disc Golf! Concessions are plentiful, tasty, and reasonably priced. RA always has a full weekend of racing with many support races scheduled around the main event(s). I drive from Detroit to RA (670 miles one way) at least twice a year for the IndyCar and IMSA weekends. Next to Indy, my favorite track. Thinking more about it George, we need to stop promoting RA. It’s gonna get too crowded!

  10. I haven’t been to either race, but have experience traveling and camping in Wisconsin, and lived for a year and a half in Tennessee and spent time in Nashville. I immediately thought RA. With more thought and after reading your thoughts George, I agree completely with you.

  11. I’ve been to Road America 3 times and I did attend the Nashville race last August. I would definitely recommend Road America. Road America is beautiful and the weather is beautiful. Nashville was fun but it was very hot and a late drive home since it started so late. Both are great but definitely go to Elkhart

  12. There have been many times at RA sitting up on the hill sunny day, among the green grass and trees, a barn and a silo off in distance, hearing the Indy cars scream by – thinking, I wouldnt want to be any place in the entire world than right here, right now

  13. Robert Zagorac Says:

    RA absolutely! I’m Wirth you on your reasoning. Once he visits Nashville with his wife he’ll have plenty of info if he wanted to bring his some the following year. Not to mention the difficulty taking pics if you don’t have a media permit. Those fences can be quite annoying to get good shots and forget panning Baltimore was a real eye opener for that reason.

  14. I have taken my teenagers to both races. I have to say they both enjoyed Road America better. They loved the golf cart and being able to travel all over to see different parts of the track. The food choices were perfect for them.
    In Nashville we stayed near the track so we parked at the hotel and walked to the race. The hotel was costly. We did a lot more walking to get around the track too. The kids weren’t too crazy about the post race concerts (my wife and I enjoyed them). You are right about finding somewhere to eat with kids after the race. We were there for all three days and realized the first day that after a certain time you have to be 21 just to enter most restaurants. So it was hard to find somewhere to go. Plus with all the partying going on just walking around with them was interesting.
    I think your advice was perfect. Take the teenager to Road America and the wife to Nashville.

  15. James Legault Says:

    Road America. My Dad took me to RA for the 1967 CanAm, when I was 12. Nothing, except the Indy 500, has had as much of an impact on my love of racing.
    I’ve been an Indy resident since my family move here when I was six, in 1960 (been to IMS for practice, quals, and/or the race every year since).
    I love Indy, but RA is a very close second.
    Your friend’s son will have a blast! He needs to take his son into Elkhart Lake, after the track closes each day, to soak up the ambiance there, too!

  16. Nothing against street circuits or Nashville – I’ve been to many street circuits – but to get someone hooked and enjoy the weekend, I would push Road America. My wife, who is not invested in racing, always recommends any newbies go with me to Road America as their first race.
    I cannot add much to the above comments about concessions, views, access, and overall atmosphere.
    While the golf cart is a bit pricey – you can also move your car around to certain parts of the track if you want to avoid a bit of walking.
    If you are a strong cyclist – a mountain bike is a good option too.
    At the end of the day – any Indycar race is a good time!

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