The other day my brother was visiting me at my current condo in Ponce Inlet, Florida.
He mentioned that he wanted to go do the Richard Petty Driving Experience because he had heard some good things about it and was a fan of NASCAR.
He also had never been to the Daytona International Speedway and neither had I, so we decided to head on over one morning and do the experience.
This particular time we opted to do the ride-along instead of the driving training because of a limited amount of time (he was flying home later in the day)
It starts off with you getting picked up outside of the main entrance and then a trolley takes you through the old tunnels that I believe used to be the entrance. The car you’re in is an open air thing similar to those open air buses you’d ride in if you were doing a city tour.
The tunnel was pretty small, giving minimal room on both sides so I’m glad I didn’t have to drive my car through it in case I ran into the sides for some reason.
Once you get out of the tunnel it all opens up into the infield, where you get to see just how big the stadium actually is.
Driving in, you can feel and see just how many people can come to the Daytona 500 and see these races take place.
What got me was that each of the seats was painted a different color, where upon first look it seemed like there was people in the audience at all times. I wonder if it’s something that the designer though of to make the drivers feel like there was always people in the stands to help them perform better even during trials and practice races.
It’s honestly a very simple system they have down.
You arrive, check in, ride the trolly into the infield and then check-in and get a little bracelet.
After that, you wait in a little line where they give you your helmet and your racing suit (so that you feel like a badass) Alright, it’s probably for safety…but you feel like a badass racer.
Being in the race suit made me feel like James Hunt in the movie, Rush… although we didn’t drive anywhere as crazy as he drove in the movie, and apparently in real life.
So what was it like being in the actual car?
Well, it was like riding a roller coaster…except you’re going about 100 mph faster than a normal roller coaster.
Also, the driver is in control of where you are on the track at all times.
The beginning was probably my favorite part. Accelerating into the first turn was pretty insane. My stomach seemed to pull back into the seat and just hung out there for the 3 laps we took around the track.
It was a pretty weird feeling. Especially knowing that I was being video taped for reactions I wasn’t sure what to do and just had a little grin on my face the whole time knowing that people do this for a living.
They get paid to drive around extremely fast in circles, and within inches of the other cars on the track.
I’m much happier knowing that I don’t have to drive 170mph all the time and be within inches of other drivers. I like keeping my distance between cars on the road whenever I’m driving.
All in all, I’ve got a new-found respect for these drivers.
Another thing that was pretty insane is just how steep the corners are around the track. It’s like driving sideways and defying gravity because of how fast we were traveling.