Speedway restaurants host raffle to boost business ahead of Indy 500

SPEEDWAY, Ind. (WISH) — Restaurants in the town of Speedway are gearing up for their busiest season: the month May and the Indianapolis 500.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be at 40% capacity come race day May 30.

“So, that is 135,000, 140,000 people. That is still a lot,” said Marcia Huff, owner of Barbecue and Bourbon restaurant.

After a year with the race moved from May to August, with no fans allowed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Speedway restaurants are looking forward to the rush of customers.

“Last year, business was actually OK for us,” said Kiely Donis, a server at Dawson’s on Main restaurant. “This year, I think is going to be even better. We are going to be busy. We are ready, we are staffed and we are prepared for a really busy May.”

Luckily for Dawson’s On Main and Barbeque and Bourbon, they kept their staff through the pandemic. Other restaurants have not been so fortunate.

“We have a lot of Speedway supporters and we had a ton of to-go’s that helped us. People really went out of their way to be generous for us,” Donis said.

Now, the restaurants are looking to bring on more people ahead of race week. Huff is bringing people in specifically to man the door and remind out-of-town guest of current coronavirus restrictions to cut down on confusion.

Most counties in the Indianapolis metropolitan area relaxed their coronavirus restrictions in April; Indianapolis and Marion County have not.

“It is hard to explain to someone who just came over from Johnson County that they do have to have a mask on (in Marion County), that we can only seat a certain amount of people, that you can’t stand at the bar,” Huff said.

To encourage people to eat local when in Speedway, the Chamber of Commerce is hosting a raffle. Sixteen restaurants donated gift cards, and eight people will win $25 gift cards to all 16.

“The eyes of the world come to Speedway in the month of May, and, of course, we want to do everything we can to raise awareness for our local businesses to bring people to their businesses with or without the race,” said Scott Nelson, president of the Speedway Chamber of Commerce.

Tickets for the raffle are $10 and will be on sale from Friday through May 27. The eight winners will be randomly chosen at 11 a.m. May 28. Net proceeds from the lottery will be divided equally amongst the participating restaurants.