Last week it was announced that the Walt Disney World Speedway is closing and the Richard Petty Driving Experience will run it’s final laps in June. The speedway will be completely razed to make way for unspecified transportation improvements. Many people suspect Disney will build a parking garage, as the speedway is next to the Magic Kingdom, where the current parking situation is less than perfect.
The Walt Disney World Speedway opened in November of 1995 and has been home to the Indy Racing League from 1996-2000 and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series from 1997-1998. It wasn’t until the off-season in 1997 that they began hosting the Richard Petty Driving Experience.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Richard Petty Driving Experience, it’s an opportunity for guests to experience the thrill of riding in a real NASCAR race car. Disney offers five “Experience” packages that allow the guest to personally drive the car, and the Ride-Along Experience, where the guest can ride a few laps around the track with a professional driving instructor.
For my dad’s 40th birthday we surprised him with the Ride-Along Experience. When we got to the track and he realized what he was about to do he started to get really excited. I think the whole experience was pretty surreal to him (ah, the joys of Disney magic). The first thing he did when he got there was sign a safety waver and listen to a safety briefing. Then, he suited up and went out to the car. He got to go three laps around the track at 150 mph, which went by in the blink of an eye. At the end of the whole experience he got a plaque with his picture on it to commemorate the day.
The Richard Petty Driving Experience is a really awesome opportunity for guests, so it will be sad to see it go. I know I would’ve liked to have had this opportunity. Thankfully, there are a handful of other tracks around the country that offer the same experience, but I have a feeling they lack that special Disney touch and pixie dust.
Have you experienced the Richard Petty Driving Experience? Will you go before it closes for good?