Who hasn’t dreamed of (safely) riding in a vehicle traveling at 120 miles per hour or more? When you feel the “need for speed” on Disney property, most people head into the parks and climb aboard Test Track or the Rock ’n Roller Coaster. Those adrenalin fueling rides are fast but nothing inside the Disney parks can compare to another attraction found outside the parks but still on Disney property. Hidden near the Magic Kingdom guest parking lot is the Walt Disney World Speedway featuring the Richard Petty Driving Experience. In June of 2012, I wrote an article suggesting things to do outside of the parks. In it, I briefly mentioned the Driving Experience. Since this is truly a hidden pleasure of the World, I thought I would take you inside my family’s race car riding afternoon.
But first, a little background on the Walt Disney World Speedway. It was originally built in 1995 as a venue to be used for Izod Indy Car Series races. The track is 1 mile around and is considered a tri-oval (basically an oval with three turns in it but no corners). It is now home to the Richard Petty Driving Experience year-round.
When my family plans lengthy Walt Disney World vacations, we always try to include things that we haven’t done before. This was the case in 2009 when we stayed for two weeks. On one day, we decided to try out race cars. Having looked at all the options beforehand, we agreed that my dad would ride in a car with a professional driver. We used Disney transportation to the Magic Kingdom then caught the ferry to the TTC. It was only 9:00am so we were the only people on the ferry because we were heading the wrong way! Everyone else was heading into the park and we were going in the opposite direction. When we debarked, we walked over to a sign near the kennel marked “Richard Petty Driving Experience” and waited for a van to shuttle us to the racetrack. In just a few minutes we were driving through a tunnel under the racetrack and parking in the center.
Check in was a breeze. My dad had to sign a release that said he wouldn’t sue if anything went wrong and my mom wouldn’t sue if he was killed while my brother and I hunted through the pins to see which ones we would add to our collections (priorities!). Next was the fire suit. There were lots of sizes to choose from and, even though they let us try, my brother and I weren’t able to find any to fit us. Outside we went. There was a safety lesson, instructions on how to climb in the car (the doors really don’t open and you have to go through the window), neck brace positioning and a helmet fitting (no, they didn’t fit us either). After what seemed like hours of waiting (it was really only a few minutes), we heard a roar loud enough that both my brother and I covered our ears in surprise. I looked up just in time to see my dad’s ride pull up and a man climb out of the driver’s side window. He talked to us for a while and told us that my dad would go around four times – once to build up speed then three laps.
Goodbyes done, dad climbed in the window. I would love to say that it was graceful but the truth is that he had no idea how to do it. He’s pretty small and barely fit so be careful before you try it! The car started and off they went! The first lap didn’t seem too fast from where we were standing but looks are deceiving. By the time they made a full loop, the stock car was roaring by at 135 miles per hour. The three lap ride went by very fast. There is a camera in the car which recorded both my dad’s face, and the view from inside the car which also indicated the speed. My dad’s journey reached speeds of 143 miles per hour! We watched (and purchased) the video. He won’t let me show it to you but, suffice it to say that he looked like a chipmunk with his cheeks flapping, his eyes were big as saucers and the car got within inches of the outside wall! The ride was over way too soon!
My family chose to do the ride along Richard Petty Experience to avoid hours in a classroom that are necessary before you are allowed behind the wheel of your own vehicle but there are many choices. If you just want to spend an hour or so, choose to ride along for three laps ($99). If driving a stock car is more your thing, you can opt for classroom learning then the Rookie Experience (eight lap drive) for $449, the King’s Experience (18 lap drive) for $849, the Experience of a Lifetime (30 lap drive) for $1299 or the Speedway Challenge (50 lap drive) for $2099. A few new options are now available at the Walt Disney World Speedway, too. Richard Petty is now offering ride along for juniors age 6 – 13 for only $59! The Exotic Driving Experience offers a ride/drive in world’s fastest and most luxurious cars made by Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Aston Martin, Audi and Nissan. Drive packages for these cars range from a $99 ride along to $419.
Although it’s pricey, I think this is a really fun excursion when you have some free time…even if you just go to watch the cars circle the Walt Disney World Speedway. There’s no need to be a huge NASCAR fan, just someone who loves adventure and speed. I think that describes many of us. Our family has ventured over to the track a few times with both my mom and dad zooming around the track. Now that they allow juniors to ride, I’m looking forward to our next trip when Austin and I will take our turns speeding around the world!
Have you taken the time to visit the Walt Disney World Speedway and (legally) raced at over 100 mph? I would love to hear about your “Experience”.
See ya REAL soon!
Quote of the week: “When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.” – Walt Disney
Makena is a 15 year old high school student who spends much of her free time researching Disney. She enjoys sharing Disney facts and even plans Walt Disney World vacations (including searches for secrets and Hidden Mickeys) for friends and family. Makena began blogging for WDW Radio in December 2011.