Indianapolis 500

Speedway businesses worry they won’t make it without Indy 500 fans

SPEEDWAY, Ind. (WISH) — The announcement Tuesday of no fans at the Indianapolis 500 comes as a huge blow for nearby business owners who were counting on the race to help them pay bills through the pandemic.

Some like Gerardo Rios, owner of Tacos and Tequila on Main, fear they won’t be able to make it.

When you live and own a business in the shadow of the racetrack like Rios, the race is not just a race. It’s a livelihood.

“Indy 500 for us is our whole savings for wintertime,” Rios said. “Three to four months of wintertime.”

It has felt like winter all spring and into the summer with the pandemic.

There’s been a lot of weeks Rios has gone without a paycheck, as well as relying on his wife and daughters to help, just so he can pay the bills.

But his hope of a big payday and a large race crowd were dashed Tuesday.

“I was shocked,” Rios said. “I hope it doesn’t kill us.”

He thought an attendance cap at 50% was okay. The cut to 25% was more alarming.

But no fans at all could be a game changer. He worries he’ll be forced to close for good.

“Yes, worried,” he said.

Next door at Dawson’s on Main, the news was less of a surprise for owner Chris Hill.

“Tough day for sure, it’s a tough day,” Hill said.

He wasn’t sure what to expect with a race in August, not May.

He’s thankful the race is still happening — if nothing else, for psychological reasons.

“People just love to hear the cars,” Hill said. “We’re just glad there’s still going to be a race. That’s what more than anything, that’s what we want.”

Still, he’s hopeful even a race without fans will help his bottom line.

Many restaurants have plenty of outdoor seating now thanks to the Town of Speedway, which Hill and Rios agrees has been a big help.

“I feel we’ll make it unless we completely get shutdown again, that will be the next hurdle,” Hill said.

Hill is already looking forward to the next fan-filled 500. Thanks to the coronavirus-related delays, that’s just nine months off.

“We’ll be here next May when the next race comes,” he said.

But for Rios, there’s a thinner margin to survive another winter.

He hopes even if fans can’t go inside the track, they’ll come to listen and now watch with no tape delay.

“Yeah, I’m hoping, I’m hoping. That will be good for little businesses, for the whole Main Street,” Rios said.