SPEEDWAY, Ind. (July 23, 2015) -- There are high hopes for this year's Brickyard 400, as recent years brought less fans than ever out to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
It's already been a comeback year for downtown Speedway, where Main Street is more accessible thanks to a new roundabout and more fans are showing up.
IMS officials are also hoping for a comeback year at the race, which has seen declining sales and empty stands in recent summers.
"Over the last several years our ticket sales have declined. We’ve got such a great big huge facility and this year’s the first year in several that it’s actually going back the right direction," IMS President Doug Boles said.
One big reason is Jeff Gordon, who will compete for the last time in the Brickyard 400 before he retires at the end of the season.
"When Jeff made that announcement that this would be his last season, our ticket sales from January on have been really, really strong," Boles said.
The weekend's festivities kicked off Thursday night, when the annual hauler parade made its way through downtown Speedway. Fans showed up to see their favorite teams roll into town and over to the track to set up for practice Friday.
"I think there (are) more people this time," fan Mike May said.
"This year seems a little more (busy)," fan Ben Porter said.
The boost in business is welcome for owners like David Huff, who opened his restaurant Barbecue and Bourbon on Main a year and a half ago, just as the town was breaking ground on the new roundabout. It's a change that turned out to be a renaissance for downtown Speedway.
"We love the roundabout. (It's) doing Speedway good," Huff said.
That good vibe led to a packed house Thursday, as owners and fans alike get ready to see if Sunday really will look different.
"The 500, it’s hard to beat that but with the weather what it’s supposed to be, I think it’s going to be a pretty busy weekend," Huff said.
"(It's) just a good, fun atmosphere out here," May said.
To view the weekend's schedule of events, go to the link here.