165+ around the birthplace of speed is the ultimate experience....bar none the best of the best! What a rush!!!!!
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165+ around the birthplace of speed is the ultimate experience....bar none the best of the best! What a rush!!!!!
This has to be the most exciting thing i have ever done. We were sitting in the cafe eating a burger one minute and next minute my husband says he had bought me a ticket as a suprise.
We made our way round to the track but the weather was closing in, just as i was about to put on my helmet a call came over to say it was raining at the far side so my trip was cancelled.
We returned next day and everything went without a hitch. When you leave the pit lane and head to the wall of turn one you think this is really fast how are we going to stay on the track.......however coming out of turn one and accelarating towards turn two is nothing short of frightening, I kept thinking he must be going to slow down now but he doesnt.
The drivers are great, the pit crew are orginised and entertaining. A very slick operation.
I received my Driving Experience as a gift from my wife several years ago. Initially I was scheduled to drive at Daytona International Speedway in the fall, but just before my appointment I fell ill; because of my hospitalization and subsequent treatment, the good folks at RPDE put my status on hold until I was well enough to reschedule a date. The following year, in July, my wife called RPDE and was told that my Driving Experience could easily be retrieved from the computers and a date set, which we did for the next available opening, which occurred toward the end of the month.
Once my time came, my family loaded up the family truckster and made the epic three hour drive from our home in Tampa to Daytona Beach. Once at the track, we were all treated with the utmost in courtesy and respect, even my then two year old daughter, who took it upon herself to entertain both visitors and staff by climbing the stage and declaring "I'm a Princess!" right in the middle of the initial presentation. (Note to parents: Apparently the Daytona Int'l Speedway is solely intended for grown up activities, such as watching and driving race cars. There are no playgrounds in the infield, thus small children will invariably grow increasingly bored as the day wears on. In addition, small children instintively know when their parents and grandparents attention is elsewhere, and will use these moments to break free of the chair or lap on which they were confined. Amusement and/or frustration, depending on one's proximity and relationship to said child, inevitably follows, particularly when the child climbs the only immovable structure in the room and assumes a position of royalty. Beware...)
Once the initial presentation and possible audience participation was finished, my fellow wannabes and I were introduced to the track itself. We were loaded into a couple of late model Ford Econoline vans and were driven for a few laps around the track. At 2 1/2 miles around, my first impression was that the track was rather large, bordering on enormous. My second impression came as we entered turn one; the banking, at roughly 32 degrees, is actually much steeper in person than it appears on television. As we circled the track, we were treated to the driving instructor's vast knowledge of the track itself and how to safely drive on it. While the first lap or two were driven on the track's flat apron, subsequent laps were driven on the banked track itself. The instructors opened up the vans to approximately 90 miles per hour, a more than adequite speed to ensure the vans didn't simply fall off the banking. My last impression was that at Daytona, 90 mph felt almost slow, and that the track itself was huge, with seemingly endless straights and large, sweeping corners.
From there it was time for lunch, and the track boasted a surprisingly modest concessions area, with a relatively limited menu consisting of various hamburger and hot dog concoctions. Sadly, I must say that the food was mediocre at best; if actual cows and pigs did give their all for my family's culinary pleasure, their sacrifice was in vain. But, it is possible that the concessions were a product of the Speedway's doing and thus not actually affiliated with RPDE at all, but I don't know for sure. Also, my Driving Experience occurred several years ago, so the food situation may have changed for the better since then.
After lunch, everyone was ushered back into the main stage room. The names of the participants were called, one by one, and each of us were fitted for a driving suit, which was a one piece garment, much like a jumpsuit and intended to fit loose enough to be worn over existing clothing (this being late July in Florida, I had no trouble fitting into the driving suit while wearing the standard Florida summer dress uniform of shorts, T shirt and sandals; the sandals were soon ditched in favor of required closed toe shoes). After putting on the driving suits and assuming our new roles as pseudo-stock car drivers, it was time to hit the track.
The stage room was emptied and everyone ushered to the pit lane area, where everyone was seperated into two groups, those that were there to ride along and/or drive, and those who were there to watch their loved ones. We were all guided to our designated areas, both of which were shaded by large canopies, which provided some relief from the heat. When my turn came, I was fitted for an open face helmet and a small round cloth resembling a yamaka was set on my head. Once that was in place for purposes unknown, a staff member secured the helmet in place.
Shortly thereafter, one of the cars pulled off the track and stopped; this was to be my ride. After embarrassing myself by my inability to gracefully climb into the car, I quickly realized that my feet couldn't fully reach the pedals. When I told a staff member, a cushion appeared and was stuffed behind me, effectively fixing the problem. I was instructed to start the car and kindly reminded to follow my instructor's car while on the track. At that point I eased the clutch out and drove onto the track for the first time.
Driving the car was surprisingly easy. The cars are deliberately set to corner "tight", which basically means the car can't lose it's lateral rear grip unless something drastic happens. As a result, pretty much everyone who drives these cars feels comfortable and confident in their abilities. As my 16 lap stint progressed, the instructor, driving a seperate lead car, gradually increased our speed. I followed at the proper distance, which in my case turned out to be the most challenging aspect of the whole experience, as drivers are instructed to follow the lead car at a distance that is considerably closer (and in my case considerably more unnerving) than recommended following distances in street cars. The shorter following distance is implimented so that the student, driving the rear car, can easily see the instructor's hand signals through the rear window. In addition, the instructors repeatedly emphasize the need for the students to actually drive TOO CLOSE to the lead car; the instructor is then able to issue a particular hand signal which means "back off slightly" with the intention of placing the student's car at the correct following distance. (The instructors maintain that most students never get close enough, and later told me that out of the fifteen or sixteen people in my group, I was one of only three who did...)
As the laps continued, my perceptions of the track changed radically. At my top speed of 147 mph, the track felt considerably narrower than before. In addition, the turns felt smaller and much tighter, with the car requiring a surprising amount of steering input to navigate them. Furthermore, the high degree of banking now seemed to obscure the track ahead, while simultaneously giving me the impression of being inside a bowl. At yet, the track was not particularly challenging, even at speed. I wanted to go faster still.
And then it was over. I reluctantly put the car in neutral on the backstretch and followed my instructor as we coasted back to pit lane. I guided the car to where I was told and shut the engine off. Then I climbed out of the car and walked away. After the helmet and beanie were removed, I quickly pulled off my driving suit and discarded it in a laundry bin. I reunited myself with my family, noting with a pang of slight sadness that my daughter was absent; though I had hoped she would share in my excitement, my wife informed me that she had quickly grown bored with the whole spectacle and that my mother in law had taken her back inside to cool down.
Finally, it was time to wrap the affair up by presenting each driver with a data sheet which showed the top speed reached, among other things. Names were called, applause was given, and it was over. Thank you for choosing to fly with the Richard Petty Driving Experience, we hope you will enjoy your stay in Daytona Beach, please come back and see us again... And that was that.
Congratulations be upon you for making it this far. To sum up, I feel that the Richard Petty Driving Experience is truly a first-class operation. Everyone in my family, including my daughter, was treated with the utmost respect and consideration. The instructors and other staff struck that elusive balance between cold stuffiness and casual nonchalance. The equipment was well maintained and obviously cared for, which in turn imparted a feeling that my well being, and in fact my life, were in capable hands. Finally, I must give RPDE the highest marks in their accomidation of my illness and their willingness to go out of their way to make sure I got to drive... Though I believe most companies would do the right thing and at least offer a refund of some sort, I doubt that many would hold a place for me for such an extended period of time. I can without hesitation or doubt highly recommend the Richard Petty Driving Experience at Daytona to anyone and everyone who thinks that this sort of entertainment will suit them.
One of the greatest experiences of a life time. Weather you complete a ride-a-long or actually drive one of the Race Care, you are in for a unforgettable thrill. The professionals that operate the Richard Petty Driving Experience are just great. They are there for you, making sure your experience is fun, safe and memorable. My 18 year son drove one of the cars as his 18th Birthday present. In all his years, I have never seen such a smile on his face as when he stepped out of that car after his 8 laps. He was able to drive at 148-150 MPH.
The Driving Experience offers ride-a-longs and driving experiences. The ride-a longs are the least expensive with the driving experiences priced as you increase in lap drives and experience levels. It was neat just to be in the pit area close to the cars.
The Pit crew and drivers were engaging. My son, absolutely loves NASCAR and we drove from Cleveland Ohio to let him experience this. It was amazing, worth the money. But, the concession staff was horrible, no hello's, no smiles, no thank you's, they acted as if they were paying this very high price for the ride. Very disappointed. Also, the bathrooms were FILTHY! You would expect an overall great experience, I give it a 4.