Tiny town getting in gear for a wild Formula One ride
ELROY — This ain’t Monaco. F1 racing out here? Are you kidding? Maybe an F1 tornado.
As you drive into this tiny, rural town 15 miles southeast of downtown Austin, you won’t see any zippy, lowslung foreign sports cars. Instead, you pass by five aging pickups lounging in a field, waiting for buyers; a couple of fireworks stands; cows; and a house with a sign out front advertising menudo.
So they’re fixing to build an at least $200 million For- mula One racetrack nearby, huh? Some folks here might think Formula One comes in a baby bottle.
“Oh no, I have no idea. I have never been in the race track,” said Rick Dhukka, owner of the Elroy Country Corner convenience store, who knows little about the sport. “They have those in another state, a nice
Continued from A1 track. But they have a lot of fans come and they have a national championship or something.”
Dhukka is hoping Formula One comes to Elroy so he can make more money in his store and sell, among other things, more ball caps. He carries an impressive line of gimme hats. They’re strung in a cluster near the ceiling. One of Dhukka’s hats says “Shut up and Fish.” A Formula One fan from Belgium might wear that hat while sipping on his petite sirah, right?
This is not to say Elroy folks don’t appreciate fast cars. Remember that the Longhorn Speedway, a small good ol’ boy stock-car track, used to be down the road where FM 812, which runs through Elroy, meets U.S. 183 a few miles to the west.
“What will this baby do?” I asked a gal named Haellee. She was filling up her old, white Honda with gas at Dhukka’s convenience store. Green plastic beads hang from the rearview mirror, and the right front tire is missing a hubcap.
“I’ve only got it up to about 90, but I had a Ford Escort I got up to 130,” Haellee said. “I guess it was messed with under the hood. I bought it like that.”
She knows about Dale Earnhardt. “Sure do,” she said. But F1 racing is a mystery to her. “I don’t usually watch a lot of TV,” she explained.
You couldn’t find a more unlikely place on the planet for an F1 crowd if you tried. And now, the talk is that two years from now the Formula One circuit and its European drivers might be racing in what today is a large field fit for fire ants north of Elroy’s downtown. If you can call it a downtown.
Urban Elroy consists of the convenience store, Ray’s Used Tires and Ray’s Super Service; the Mexico General Store with piñatas hanging from the ceiling and a pile of hay bales out front; a small volunteer-run library, which carries no books about Formula One; and Wild Bubba’s Wild Game Grill, a colorful restaurant that advertises “fried coyote tail” on the mobile sign out front.
“They’re wieners rolled up in a flour tortilla and deep fried,” said Wyman Gilliam, the owner. He has Elroy roots. His family has had a farm down the road since the ’60s.
Gilliam, who carries a variety of wild game burgers made out of the actual animals (antelope, bear and yak among them), plans to gear up for Formula One. “I’ve made it known I sure would like to have a connection and become a vendor,” he said.
I can hear it now: “Get your yak on a stick.” Rick Dhukka, owner of the Elroy Country Corner convenience store, hopes that Formula One coming to town will be good for business. With luck, those F1 fans will be in the market for gimme hats.
Gilliam is planning ahead for the sophisticated F1 crowd.
“Guess I better clean the bathrooms,” he quipped. He’s designing a “EuroTex Burger,“ with Gruyere cheese, portobello mushrooms and romaine lettuce.
“Too fancy for Elroy,” he said. “But I know with the international crowd, we’ll get a few Europeans in here. Yeah, I think I’ll get a beer permit. Even sell Dom Perignon for the victors.”
And he intends to keep distributing his bumper stickers that ask, “Where the hell is Elroy, Texas?”
That’s a darned good question.
Wild Bubba’s Wild Game Grill, owned by Wyman Gilliam, is one of the few eateries in Elroy. Gilliam hopes to sell deep-fried hot dogs wrapped in tortillas (‘coyote tails’) to Formula One fans.
Trucks are parked in a row and marked ‘For Sale’ in a field near Elroy.
Elroy’s tiny downtown features the Mexico General Store, which has piñatas hanging from the ceiling and hay bales out front.