DAWSONVILLE, Ga. -- Two of the four televisions inside the Dawsonville Pool Room were showing a replay of Sunday's Pennzoil Freedom 400 for a busy lunch crowd Wednesday afternoon.
The video recorder hasn't stopped showing the race held at Homestead-Miami Speedway since Sunday. Play, stop, rewind, play.
The walls are decorated with yellowed copies of old newspaper stories about the town's favorite son, Bill Elliott. The front window of the diner, globally accepted as the unofficial headquarters of the Elliott fan club, lists the first 40 victories in his career. A sign-maker will be around later in the week to add, at long last, No. 41.
Developers brought a huge shopping center and even a McDonald's to Dawsonville in the past seven years, but the greatest draw to this town in the north Georgia mountains has been, and apparently always will be, Bill Elliott.
A banner with his familiar No. 9 hangs in front of the Finish Line Deli. The front window at the Dawson News and Advertiser is painted with the message ''Home of Bill Elliott.'' A mural of Elliott's Dodge Intrepid race car dominates the eastern side of the Dawsonville Flea Market and Gift Shop. The sign in front of the Winds of Peace Fellowship Church displays this simple message: ''Awesome!''
''People still scratch their heads and wonder why Bill Elliott has been the most popular driver for 15 of the last 17 years,'' said Pool Room owner George Pirkle. ''It's easy. Come to Dawsonville, and you see what he means to this area.''
Elliott's win last week in south Florida ended a losing streak that had stretched beyond seven years a span of 226 races. When he crossed the finish line, 70 fans were packed inside Pirkle's eatery. They spent hours eating his famous Bully Burgers and fresh-cut fries during the race, then they howled in delight when his red racer took the checkered flag.
Included in the group was Elliott's oldest daughter, Starr. Now a sheriff's deputy, she had never heard the siren because she was always at the race track with her father when she was younger.
That's when Pirkle uncorked the traditional, yet almost forgotten, trademark of every Elliott victory. He sounded a siren (pronounced si-reen in these parts) for nearly 30 minutes that echoed through the valleys for miles.
''Some of the new people in town came out and looked up thinking we were in an air raid,'' Pirkle said. ''It's been a long time since we've turned that siren loose.''
The local newspaper had five pages of coverage of the win, including a tribute page by advertisers. A note hung over the grill to remind Pirkle, racing's newest cult hero, that he would be the guest on the national radio show NASCAR Live on Wednesday night.
When Elliott arrived home late Sunday night, about 40 local fans were waiting at the airstrip.
''They even had a cake for me, but I dropped it on the concrete when we were taking pictures,'' Elliott said. ''So we had upside-down cake. I heard the siren went off at the pool room for about 30 minutes, and that there was a big crowd there. It was a pretty fun night.''
A day later, the effects of Elliott's victory were felt at Atlanta Motor Speedway. More than 6,000 tickets were sold Monday, and many said their sudden interest in Sunday's NAPA 500 was spawned by the return of Elliott to the Winner's Circle.
The speedway had to call in extra help in the ticket office for the week leading up to the race. By the end of the week, more than 10,000 extra tickets had been bought at the last minute.
''Bill has dominated here in the past, and I'm sure there is nothing our fans would like better than to watch their local hero win again this year,'' said speedway president Ed Clark. ''I'm trying to imagine the celebration in Victory Lane and in Dawsonville if he were to win here to make it two in a row.''
Pirkle plans to be at the speedway Friday for pole qualifying, but he will watch the race on television at the Pool Room.
''We went so long without Bill winning, people were worried the siren wouldn't work,'' he said. ''We had it looked at (during the off-season) and it wasn't anything a little WD-40 couldn't fix.''
Fans from across the country called the Pool Room immediately after the race so they could hear the siren wail. Pirkle obliged every request by taking the telephone to the front door and giving every fan a quick listen to the mayhem.
''Seeing Bill win again is important to a lot of us around here,'' Pirkle said. ''It's good to see him win again. He's had a few tough years, but he's never lost one fan in Dawsonville. He put us on the map. He made everyone around here proud to say they're from Dawsonville.''
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