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'All hands on deck' | Speedway businesses prepare for big boom in race fan traffic

As crowds return to normal for events at IMS, businesses say they're looking forward to a big influx of customers.

SPEEDWAY, Ind. — After many area business found themselves struggling during the pandemic, a return to normal for this year's Indianapolis 500 has raised expectations dramatically

"It's such an exciting time to be here," said Arcie Biggerstaff, an Indy 500 visitor from San Angelo, Texas. 

The countdown to race day is on, and fans like Biggerstaff are getting a jump start on the festivities.  

"I have been coming to the 500 since 1990 and I love the excitement, the cars, the drivers," she said. 

Biggerstaff, who in town from Texas for race, said she wanted to swing by O'Reilly's Pub in Speedway for a drink and to see her daughter before her friends and family fly in. 

"Yeah, we just bring Texas with us when we come," she said.

O'Reilly's manager Joel Reitz said the busy start to  the weekend is just the tip of the iceberg.

"It's going to be a lot busier through Sunday evening," Reitz said.

Reitz said traffic is already picking up, and the businesses here are ready for it.  

"It is all hands on deck," Reitz said. "After the last two years, we anticipate this very much and we very much look forward to it. It's very exciting for us." 

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Reitz said they're lucky they're not down very many staffers right now, despite the shortages so many other businesses in town are facing.  And with their busiest day of the year fast approaching, every employee is needed. 

"Sunday will be, in my estimate, twice as busy as St. Patrick's Day," Reitz said. 

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With a return to normal racing after a tough two years, they’re anticipating larger-than-normal crowds of people filling the pub. That's just fine with regulars and visitors alike. 

Credit: WTHR/Rachael Krause

"It's our favorite hangout," Biggerstaff said. "And I love the people here."

Until the Speedway opens for the 500, fans are spilling over into the town of Speedway. They're filling up at favorite haunts, ready to take their seats when the Greatest Spectacle in Racing begins. 

"We're just race fans through and through," Biggerstaff said. 

Credit: WTHR/Rachael Krause

For one racing fan, this year's Indy 500 race will fulfill a lifelong goal. 

"Came to see the Indianapolis 500 — my childhood dream," said Cappy Capuano, who's visiting Indianapolis from Memphis, Tennessee.

Capuano said this has been a moment he's dreamed of for more than 50 years when he first watched the Indy 500 race. 

"Ever since I saw it on TV when I was a kid, saw Mario Andretti win on closed circuit TV at the Los Angeles Forum in Los Angeles, Englewood, 1967," Capuano said.

Until race day, Capuano said he's having a blast checking out the town and enjoying Indy's race time vibes. 

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