I sat in the KINGS seat!

| June 18, 2008 | 11 Replies

Richard the “King” Petty is a living legend in the sport of stock car racing. He has over 200 wins in the sport and is widely considered the greatest NASCAR driver of all time by many. He also offers the chance for the average stock car “enthusiast” to experience a little more than the grand stand seats, or the more common seat on the couch Sunday afternoon. The Richard Petty Driving Experience

Being from Indianapolis and a long time race fan, I chose to do the Rookie Experience. I had very high expectations when going into this. Well, let me say, that’s exactly what it was, a great experience and more. Every one of my expectations were met and surpassed. I actually went in thinking “piece of cake, this car will handle great and this will be pretty easy to do. I’ve gone fast before and the only difference now is it’s not on our taxpayer’s roads” (no pun intended). In all seriousness I’ve taken a couple of my cars to the local drag strip back home, but that’s really it as far as any real racing experience goes.

After I booked my Rookie Experience, I had to make a re-schedule that same day. Petty was pretty good about this and switched it with no problem. After tax the total came to $424.94. That package includes 8 laps, (technically 9) around the speedway. The car you drive is in an older version of the NASCAR stock car and not the most common in the Sprint Cup circuit today. These are not the C.O.T’s (Car of Tomorrow). They did have one (C.O.T.) out there but it was for Ride along experience only. Don’t let that discourage you though, these cars are only a couple years old and are still plenty close enough to the real thing.

So you arrive at the track, along with the other riders & drivers. After you check in and sign your life away you get your fancy drivers suit. Let me tell you this thing fit like a dream…well almost. It not really a big deal though, no one had any issues with their suit. I do recommend you wear shorts, at least if you’re in a spot where the weather is warm. I started to sweat as soon as we got outside and on pit road. Wear comfortable tennis shoes, no flip-flops or sandals. Definitely take some sunglasses or protective eyewear. After getting your suit you have a small introduction inside a classroom where everyone is welcome. In here you will get some basic facts and watch a short video.

After the classroom you are ready to hit the track. The mood definitely changes once you walk onto pit road. The real training begins and is broken up into two sessions. One to go over the in car instruments, gages, switches, safety devices etc. The second part being a 2 or 3 lap run around the track in a van. This will show you your correct line, acceleration, and deceleration points in and out of the corners. Once that ride is over its time for your final gear and to get behind the wheel.

You then attend a last minute drivers meeting to go over those last instructions and safety tips. Then you’re handed your key with your driver number on it and directed to the side to get your helmet and Hans device. The helmet is not a full face but more of a three-quarter helmet. (I’m guessing so the in car video can get all your
facial expressions when your burning around the track and grinning from ear to ear!)

I was the first of my group to go out and drive, and happy I was to be the first to go. By now you’re just amped and trying to remember everything they said, so I was glad to be the first one out. I was quickly geared up and jumped in that window to strap in and go fast. Once you’re in, an instructor tightens your belts and attaches your steering wheel. He then tells you to put it in first gear and fires up the car. Now your heart is pounding the RPM’s are alive and you’re ready to go. You are following an instructor, so as soon as he takes off you chase.

Once you hit that straightaway on the backstretch it’s on from there. They don’t actually time this first lap, its considered your “get up to speed” lap. As soon as you cross that start/finish line for the first time your clock starts. The object of the whole experience is to not only go fast, but also be consistent and in control the whole time. You do those two things you’ll go as fast as they will allow. Its more of a “can you be consistent” game than anything though. You are supposed to maintain a three-car length distance between you and the lead car. If you get too close he will waive you off to slow down. If you are to far behind the flag man will waive you to speed up. They will tell you to go faster three times before assuming your just comfortable at the speed your at, and leave you be. If you maintain that three-car length distance and stay on the correct line you will gain speed each lap, and you will reach your goal speed for the experience. I’m very happy to say I did reach my top experience speed of 122MPH! I was told to speed up at one point, and I did receive a “oh no your too close back off” waive from the driver as well.

I have to say, this was a very memorial experience and worth every penny. I also bought the in-car DVD ($90) and the photos ($70) they take, these are memories for a lifetime. Now remember I am a huge race fan. I went in with high expectations and came out with a new respect for the sport. If you know anyone into racing, this is right up his or her ally. Live Fast!

RPDE will not offer a refund if your experience gets canceled due to weather, you must reschedule within 364 days! I would suggest booking this experience at the beginning of your vacation that way it allows time for a reschedule later on your trip.  This is Florida and notorious for weary weather patterns.

Remember little to NO shade, loud engines and fumes.  Keep all that in mind when bringing along small children.

Track is located behind MK parking lot, or in front of the Polynesian.

William Perry II

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