SPEEDWAY — A double punch in the gut. That's what downtown Speedway has experienced this year.
First the Brickyard 400 was run in July without fans in the stands. Now, the 500 will take place later this month, also with empty grandstands.
Both races and the events leading up to them are important to the restaurants, bars, attractions and stores on Speedway's Main Street.
“Our town thrives year around, but truly comes to life in the month of May,” stated David Lindsey, President of Speedway Town Council. “We have all held onto hope that we could see some normalcy in August with fans in the stands, parking cars in our yards, and the racing family returning home to Speedway."
"We have watched the staff and leadership at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway take every precaution possible to get us back on track both literally and metaphorically. They have consistently stayed focused on doing whatever it takes to present the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 to a cheering crowd," said Lindsey.
But concerns over the COVID-19 surge in recent weeks forced IMS to decide on an August 23 race without fans.
“We respect Roger Penske and his team’s decision to put the safety of the fans, the teams, and our community before anything else,” stated Town Manager Carlos May. “We know without a doubt that the employees of IMS are just as disappointed as the fans that the race will run on August 24th in an empty stadium.”
Speedway Clerk-Treasurer Jacob Blasdel said now is the time to support the businesses on Main Street. "Many of our restaurants and shops rely on increased revenue during race season from visitors to IMS. We must do our part to shop locally when we can to ensure that our businesses are here next year for what we hope to be the most spectacular display of racing we’ve ever seen.”
And it's not just the restaurants, bar and stores that feel the pinch. Many of Speedway’s non-profits rely on race season parking to raise funds for their activities throughout the year. Former Speedway Lions Club President, Davina Merrell said, “parking for the race has always been our primary fundraiser in Speedway. We have volunteers who work in the lots all day to park cars and collect money."
Many other organizations such as the Speedway Parks Department and groups from Speedway Schools volunteer their time to park cars or maintain parking lots as fundraisers. “Many of our local groups will need the help and support of our community to find new and creative ways to reach their goals this year without having the opportunities we typically utilize during the races,” said Speedway Parks Director, Tammy Smith.
“It’s not going to be easy, but in Speedway we have a history of innovation and a strong community that will help us along the way.”