Races2U: Satisfying Austin's Need for Speed
Hit the gas without touching the pavement...
Photo: Flickr creative commons.
Austin traffic can be a drag, so much that you might find yourself fantasizing about blazing down the Circuit of the Americas or Daytona Speedway while you idle on I-35. But what if that daydream were more than just fantasy?
That's the premise of Austin's own Races2U -- provided you're okay with everything being a bit smaller than the cars and tracks you've seen in real life. But these aren’t your granddad’s slot cars: They’re outfitted with smart-chips that let drivers remotely change lanes, pull in for pit stops and shave seconds off each lap as they battle other drivers and the laws of physics.
Thankfully, you don't have to be a slot car enthusiast to join in the fun. Races2U lets customers pick out loaners -- in NASCAR and Formula 1 fashion -- or just bring your own compatible car for a spin.
The tracks on are the handiwork of Races2U president Warren Peck, who started in 2010 with a mobile track that he took to Austin-area PTA fundraisers and community events. Just two short years later, Peck opened a permanent location at the northeast corner of Highways 183 and 620, complete with three replica race tracks.
"Big kids' take a few laps around the mini-Daytona's banked track.
The Daytona and Circuit of the Americas tracks are almost exact replicas of their real-life counterparts, although they aren’t built quite to scale. (Peck says an accurate 1:32 Circuit of the Americas track would be more than 30 feet long.) But the cars do follow the real track paths, and that means plenty of twists and turns to keep things interesting. During a visit last year, my sons and their friends learned firsthand that it's quite a challenge to keep their cars on the ground through the turns, but they eventually got the hang of slowing down.
The company's toughest track is also its newest: a rally-style dirt track featuring steep hills and roadway obstacles. It’s clear from looking at the details and decorations that the tracks are a true labor of love. Peck said the Daytona replica took three weeks to build, and the Circuit of the Americas took a whole two months. He also said he’s always adding and changing things, “to keep it fresh." He also likes it when "people bring me things” to add to the tracks.
Warren Peck of Races2U with his Circuit of the Americas replica track
When he’s not teaching customers the finer points of slot car racing or maintaining the tracks, Peck creates custom tracks for private clientele, like Ferrari of Austin and USAA, which took Peck and one of his creations on a tour of military installations to promote driver safety. Peck even said that his slot cars got him into a recent Army-Navy game in Philadelphia,
Races2U still takes its racetracks on the road to events throughout Central Texas, such as the city of Cedar Park’s upcoming 4th of July celebration. The mobile tracks are a fixture at Round Rock’s yearly Chalk Walk art festival as well.
At the shop, expect to spend an hour or two to race all the tracks. Kids age 6 and up can usually race without adult help. Younger kids will probably need some assistance to keep their cars on track. Races2U's hours are noon to 8 p.m., Monday-Thursday; noon to 9 p.m. on Saturday; and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. And if you're intent on having the run of the place or bringing a party, Peck recommended checking Races2U's online calendar of events, or calling ahead.
Daytona photo, courtesy Warren Peck. Circuit of the Americas photo by Casey Kelly-Barton