AUSTIN (KXAN) - When Warren Peck was a little boy growing up in Austin he didn't have video games to play. Instead, he fooled with little cars.
"Boys have been into cars as long as there have been cars," Peck said, "and, you know, slot cars are just a natural progression."
Decades later, when Peck was looking for a small business idea, he remembered those childhood moments and decided to outfit a trailer with a slot car track.
He called the business Races2U and started taking the track to birthday parties and such, collecting $250 for a two-hour play period. It wasn't a gold mine, but it provided some steady income, along with a lot of fun, not just for the kids, but for Peck, as well.
The announcement that Formula 1 was coming to Austin got the man just real excited.
"Formula 1, of course, is one of the most followed sports in the world," Peck explained. "It's one of my keywords where people find my website, because they're looking for Formula 1. So anything that's good for Formula 1 is good for me."
Last November, though, word leaked that the Austin track was in trouble, being dragged down beneath the rancor of feuding promoters.
Peck, and he says some two dozen other small business owners who had counted on F1 to boost their endeavors, threatened to sue if the project did wind up crashing into the proverbial race track wall.
"My business will suffer and a lot of my friends and colleagues businesses are going to suffer," he said at the time.
Now, though, Peck is delighted to know that the track is scheduled to hold its first race, the 2012 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix, in November.
"If my threatening a lawsuit was part of the impetus to get it done," said Peck, "then -- I don't know if it was; I can't take credit for it because I really don't know what went on behind those doors -- but if it was, I'm happy…that I did it.
"Circuit of the Americas and Formula 1 and the city of Austin had all presented Formula 1 coming as fact, as a done deal," he went on. "So it was almost like false advertising when they said, 'Oh, we're not going to do it."
Of course, if the Austinites had sued, they would have been going up against some of the deepest pockets on Earth, and the attorneys that those pockets can buy. Success was by no means guaranteed, but Peck had a point to make: Not only his business, but lots of other local enterprises had a lot to lose.
So now that the project is back on track, those same business owners are smiling.
"They are restaurateurs, hotels, local vendors," Peck said. "You know who I think is going to do extremely well with all the people coming from out of town will be like, your Shepler's and your Callahan's, western wear-type stores.
"Texas is not like the rest of the United States. Texas is Texas. You go anywhere, 'Oh, you're from Texas? Do you have an oil well? Do you have a horse? Do you wear a cowboy hat?'
"There's a certain mystique and aura about Texas," Peck said, "that nowhere else in the U.S. has. So I think a lot of things that promote Austin and Texas are going to do well.
"I also think it will help our luxury home market. Some of these people that are coming to watch F1 are multi-multi-millionaires or billionaires. For them to drop $1 million on a vacation home is nothing."
Peck, himself, buoyed by the F1 developments, expanded his operation, adding an actual brick and mortar location to the trailer concept. It comes complete with an approximate replica of the real Austin F1 track.
"I was worried about my third summer," he said, "going into my third summer with the trailers and how hot it's been the last two summers, and how dry and how the dust affects everything.
"So I started thinking, 'You know, people may want to do something a little bit cooler and in the air conditioning.'"
Sitting in that air-conditioned shop at 13945 US Highway 183 North near Lakeline Mall, the man admits the business is not turning a profit yet, but he has high hopes.
"This little shop," he said, "is on the Internet and believe it or not, we are now in the top 100,000 of websites in the U.S. and in the top 600,000 of websites in the whole world."
But what Peck is most happy about is the chance to mine the nostalgia of his youth and wrap it around the children of today, kids who might otherwise be glued to a video game of some sort.
"This is a nice alternative," he said. "This is a lot more social than video games. I mean here, you know, you can have four, five, six kids racing each other at a time. You get that competitiveness going on and the trash talking and, you know, it's a lot more fun."
The official grand opening of the store is scheduled for Friday.
Meanwhile, Races2U will have a trailer at the upcoming Formula Expo event at the Austin Convention Center. Visitors will get to try out not only the slot car racers, but also nestle into seats attached to actual F1 simulators. They will get to race each other and progress through rounds, with the winner scoring a championship trophy.
There will be little talk of lawsuits.
5 P.M. UPDATE: The Johnson County Sheriff's Office says deputies were working multiple accidents, including slide-offs, property damages and personal injury crashes all over the county.
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