LONG BEACH - Beth Ewry says she didn't come to the 38th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday to watch a race. She came for the food.
But not the usual grub of hamburgers, hot dogs and kettle corn. Ewry was drawn by the food trucks and their gourmet offerings.
"I've never seen a race in person, and I'm excited, but it's really about the food trucks," said the 28-year-old Los Angeles resident.
This year was the first time the mobile restaurants were permitted inside the racetrack, and 24 of them were parked near Linden Avenue and Shoreline Drive. The food ranged from soul and Greek food to fried potatoes, cupcakes and fried chicken.
Ewry came for the food trucks, but several thousand other people came to watch the street race, the third in the IZOD Indy Car Series, which includes the Indy 500.
The 1.968-mile temporary road course winds its way around the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center and The Pike. Concrete barriers are put in place and grandstands sit along south Pine Avenue, Seaside Way, Shoreline Drive and Aquarium Way.
Estimated attendance this year was 170,000 over three days, about 5,000 less than last year, said Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach.
The main culprit? Friday's rain, wind and chilly temperatures.
"As of Thursday, we were tracking about 1 percent ahead of last year," Michaelian said. "Then the rain hit us.
But Saturday made up for it, and (Sunday) was a good day. Overall, it was a satisfying weekend."
The last time it rained during Grand Prix weekend was 2004, but it has never rained on the race day, Sunday.
On Friday, vendors held down tents to keep them from flying away, and race fans ducked into the Lifestyle Expo to stay warm. The food trucks village shut down early, and the autograph session with drivers was moved inside the Convention Center. Friday's concert with Mexican synth-pop band Belanova, scheduled for outside the Terrace Theatre, was moved inside the theater.
Some of the scheduled practices and qualifiers - including the Toyota Pro/Celebrity qualifier and the IndyLights practice - were either cut short or canceled.
Sunday's sunny skies and mild temperatures in the mid-60s were a welcome change of pace.
Most of the fans on Sunday were crowded into the grandstands along Shoreline Drive, but some viewers walked around the track.
One of those fans was Chuck Almgren, 50, of Costa Mesa.
Almgren, who attended his first race nine years ago, came with two friends and their two young kids.
"It's fun," Almgren said. "It's getting out with friends."
Brad Hillinger, 60, of Malibu was attending his fifth race.
"It's a good event," said Hillinger, who brought his girlfriend, Dana Fineman, 52, also of Malibu.
Fineman was watching her first race.
"It's amazing," Fineman said, as the cars roared along Shoreline Drive near Pine Avenue.
Saturday and Sunday's sunny weather was a boom for the food trucks village, too.
About 3,000 people visited the mobile restaurants on Saturday, while Sunday customers were between 5,000 and 7,000, said Patricia Harding, owner of the Irvine-based Cluster Truck Events, who organized the food truck village.
"We had good foot traffic Saturday, but it's better today," Harding said.
The most popular trucks were the ones serving gourmet cupcakes (some of the flavors were pumpkin, chocolate marshmallow and banana dark chocolate), fried chicken and Greek food.
While the food trucks enjoyed brisk business, other restaurants had mixed results.
"Friday was tough, but Saturday made up for it. People were in good spirits," said Kurt Shoemaker, general manager at The Yard House.
At 2 p.m. Sunday, however, it was slow, he said.
"We hope it picks up.
Maybe people are watching the race longer and will come by later."
Over at Toyko Wako, general manager Brian Chang said business was so so.
"We don't do a lot of extra business on the big race day," he said. "People would rather sit and drink and watch the race than have a sit-down meal." firstname.lastname@example.org, 562-714-2098, twitter.com/zonkelpt