SPEEDWAY, Ind — It’s the week before Memorial Day in Speedway yet the race track is silent, Main Street is dead and the restaurants are empty.
The Indianapolis 500 was originally scheduled for this Sunday, May 24, but was postponed until August 23 due to COVID-19.
“You couldn’t have convinced me this was gonna happen five months ago,” said Marcia Huff, owner of Barbecue and Bourbon on Main.
It’s the peak of the busiest time of the year for their restaurant, yet business is down 90%. The fans they anticipate seeing every year from all over the world aren’t here.
“It’s depressing,” Huff said. “You wait all year long and get revved up for this, and what should be a hustle-bustle wonderful time of year for us now is just completely different. Everything is different about it.”
The parking lot that’s usually home to a big tailgate party is now reserved for curbside pickup. Restaurants along the recently revitalized Main Street are doing what they can to survive.
“We fought so hard to get them here, we want to keep them” said Speedway Town Councilman Vincent Noblet. “They are a priority for us as a town.”
Noblet is a lifelong Speedway resident, so he knows what this event means to the community and what the business means for the town financially.
“There’s estimates all over the place from 10-15% direct impact on our budget, which means we’ll have to tighten our belts,” Noblet said. “We’ve done it before, we’ll do it again.”
He’s also a member of the Lions Club, one of the many community groups that runs parking lots outside IMS. They usually pull in $30,000 to $40,000 each year, which is a big piece of their yearly funding. But an empty track means empty lots.
“All of our funds as Lions members goes right back into the community, and that just means we’ll be working with less dollars this year,” Noblet said.
May is looking very different for the Town of Speedway, but they have their fingers crossed that August will look very different, too.
“Racing fans are racing fans. They’re tough,” Huff said. “So, I think it’s going to be fantastic. That’s what I’m hoping for anyways.”
The 104th running of the Indy 500 is currently scheduled to go on as planned on August 23rd.
The Indy Grand Prix and the Brickyard 400 are both set for 4th of July weekend.