INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — All this month some of your favorite IndyCar drivers are taking us on a tour of the circle city featuring their favorite hot-spots.
This week, we are going racing with one of the sport’s biggest emerging stars, Colton Herta. At age 19, the Harding Steinbrenner Racing rookie became IndyCar’s youngest-ever race winner earlier this season.
He’s just a few years younger than his team co-owner George Michael Steinbrenner IV, whose last name you may be familiar with.
Yes, as in the same Steinbrenner family that owns the New York Yankees.
Today, we're going head-to-head against both of them at Speedway Indoor Karting, located a short walk down the street from the Harding Steinbrenner Racing shop on Speedway’s Main Street.
When former IndyCar driver and team owner Sarah Fisher opened Speedway Indoor Karting, she wanted to create a place that everyone would enjoy—no matter whether you’re a first-timer or a professional race car driver.
But for someone who races cars for a living, what is it that brings the pros like Herta back to recreational go-kart facilities like SIK in their off time?
“I guess it’s just like anybody else, it’s fun to do it! It’s fun to just be able to mess around with your friends,” he said. “And it’s stress free. It’s nice to kind of get your mind off of racing sometimes and this is something I really enjoy you know? We still get to drive but there’s no pressure.”
Steinbrenner also sees it as a great place to escape and relieve stress. And although his day job is being an IndyCar team owner, it’s clear he’s no stranger to the go-kart track.
“This place is so cool… I’ve been here quite a few times now and starting to come here more and more often being across the street [from the shop],” he said.
Since it is so close to the team’s shop, it’s a perfect place for a little team bonding with the whole crew.
“We’ve had team outings here before, and I’m sure we will in the future,” Steinbrenner added.
Speedway Indoor Karting offers three different tracks: a road course, banked oval and a flat oval, which has been dubbed the “slick track.”
“The slick track that we started this year has drawn a lot of attention even from the racing community,” Fisher said.
With so many track options, how does one choose?
“They all drive a bit differently,” she explains. “The road course seems to be the most enjoyable for everyone to just jump in but certainly if you’re an oval fan you’ve got to try one or the other.”
We opted to go head-to-head on road course. But first, we consulted Herta for some first-timer racing advice to ensure a good, fast lap.
“Work up to it. That’s probably the biggest thing,” he said. “If you just go out and you’re smashing the wall, it’s not going to be fast… if you can pick up a mile per hour in the corner every time, that’s going to be big and by the end of the session you’ll be quite quick.”
With two spin-outs in the first couple of laps, it was clear that today was not Rachel’s finest day as an amateur go-kart racer.
But how are Steinbrenner’s skills behind the wheel?
“He’s actually not bad!” exclaimed Herta. “I mean, he’s not great but for having no prior driving experience and only really doing indoor karting, he’s actually really good.”
But does Colton always win?
“Yes, yes. I do,” he said.
However, Steinbrenner would surely want us to note that—this time—he did in fact take not only the win, but also the fastest time of the week.
Friendly trash-talk aside, it’s clear that Herta and Steinbrenner get along well. After all, it’s not every day a driver and his team owner hang out like old buddies. But these two do.
“Because he’s young, we’re kind of into the same stuff and he enjoys hanging out with me and doing stuff like this,” said Herta.
They even have a favorite local restaurant to visit while in town.
“We both really like Indian food and there’s a small place called India Café up north that we go to every time he’s in town,” said Steinbrenner.
Speaking of food, you don’t have to go far to get some grub after completing a race at Speedway Indoor Karting. Just head over to 1911 Grill (fittingly named in honor of the year the first Indianapolis 500 took place), located inside SIK.
1911 Grill is a full-on restaurant and bar serving refined casual American cuisine. The restaurant itself is two-stories tall and features a patio with outdoor seating.
The second floor offers a great view and even more to do.
“If people wanted to enjoy watching some karting—because we made the track very visually appealing for those who weren’t on-track—they can do that on the top level of the 1911 Grill,” said Fisher. “There’s also some mini bowling and it has some gaming up there as well so it’s kind of an all-around entertainment destination.”
The month of May is jam-packed with events all around Speedway, which causes an influx in the number of corporate events and general attendee interest at Speedway Indoor Karting. However, Fisher says there are still walk-up times available for folks who want to step into the driver’s seat here.
“The weekdays are a lot less packed than the weekends, and you can make a reservation online so you don’t have to stand in line all day,” she noted. “For 1911 Grill, making a reservation with them on the weekends is definitely something I would advise.”
For a taste of the Speedway Indoor Karting experience this weekend, you can check them out inside Indianapolis Motor Speedway. They’ll have karts on location and a race course set up for the popular return of “SIK at the Midway.”
“This year, we’re going to do more of like an oval scenario, so it will be a little bit different for fans but definitely engaging at all levels,” Fisher said.
If you catch the racing bug and see yourself as the next Colton Herta, you can take your passion to the next level by checking out Fisher’s newest venture: Whiteland Raceway Park.
“It’s our new competition-based go-kart track that we have on the south side,” explained Fisher.
Founded in 1958, WRP has the distinction of being the oldest karting track in the country but had recently fallen into disrepair.
Then last year it was announced that Fisher, her husband Andy O’Gara and Wink Hartman were teaming up to save Whiteland Raceway Park from being bulldozed by buying the property and restoring it to its former glory.
Fisher says they are expecting to officially open Whiteland Raceway Park to the public next month.
For more information about Speedway Indoor Karting, check out their website by clicking here. To see more photos and reviews by local Yelpers, check out their Yelp profile. You can also connect with them on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
For more info on Whiteland Raceway Park, check out their website by clicking here.
For the latest news and info about Colton Herta, check out the Harding Steinbrenner Racing website by clicking here. To keep up with him throughout the month of May, follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And keep your eyes peeled on race day, as fastest-rookie Herta will be starting in the second row for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500.
Colton Herta still calls California his full-time home, but you can check out some of his other favorite places to visit while in the circle city: