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Richard Petty Driving Experience

One of the fortunate things about being a buyer is that you get to travel for work, whether to visit locations, trade shows, plant tours etc. In 2005, besides moving from North Carolina to New York to assist in the start-up of our new district purchasing office, I've been fortuante to go on two work trips, Louisville, KY in June and Orlando, FL in early November.

Sometimes during these trips you are able to do/see/experience things you normally wouldn't be able to do, whether by means of affordibility, vacation time, or distance. In Lousiville, I was able to go to Churchill Downs and the Louisville Slugger Museum. In Orlando, I was able to take the 'Rookie Course' of the Richard Petty Driving Experience.

Disney has its own special track that is exclusive for the experience...so it's a minor downfall as all the other 'Experience' locations are on tracks where racing occurs. The track is a one and a half mile tri-oval.

The experience begins with a few questions: Have you raced competitively before? "No." have been to a RPDE (Richard Petty Driving Experience) before? "No." Can you drive a stick? "No." And boy did I catch some hell! :-p More on that later.

After the brief questionaire, you immediately receive a racing suit. And you are to put it on. They do introductions of the instructors and you watch a brief video. You are broken into groups and assigned an instructor, and they go over safety features of the car...how to climb in and out of the car, what to do in case of this or that. The next part is that you ride along with your instructor in a minivan around the track. There they tell you what to look, for the racing line they want you to take, etc.

The track at Disney pretty much has a fool proof (in other words safe from me) way around the track. They have cones on the inside of the track for points of acceleration, deceleration, and two red lines at various points within the track as a guide for you to navigate around.

You aren't on the track alone, you actually follow your instructor around the track, hopefully at a distance of three car lengths behind and it is a lot closer than you think. The instructors go at the speed you are comfortable with. So if you are able to adjust to the car quickly the faster you can go, the more timid you may be the slower they will go. Also, you are on the track at the same time as other 'students' so you may be passed or actually pass. Maximum out at the same time is four students with instuctors, so eight cars. However, you are to go where your instructor goes. As the one guy said "if you are following me on the track and i decide to get hungry and go to McDonalds and turn off and go to McDonalds, you better be behind me and pull into McDonalds."

You are on the track for a total of ten laps, one warm up, eight racing, one cool down. You have a pseudo-drivers meeting with a line up(the order in which you will go out). I went out 25th of 28 people. You are outfitted in a helmet and neck restraint prior to going in. So while you wait..you are almsot like a robot walking around.

They call your name, ya whoop and hollar, and into the car you go. Oh, remember i said I never driven a stick before. Well while waiting to go out, i got a brief lesson on how to opperate a stick. No w i know the basic concepts and all that, but when you are driving out there and everyone is watching ya..well you tend not to pull it off..so after a few starts and stalls..I statered it off in fourth (which sure is a bumpy ride at a slow speed) and off to the race track I went.

It was totally awesome! I could have gone faster..and the laps were done quicker than you could realize. You want to be out for oh a couple of 100 or so more. It was a total rush...at the cool down you head down the pit ramps...shift to neutral and coast right in. I got out and just let out a large whoop (which just about everyone did) and was grinnin from there in Orlando, Florida up through Georgia..past my old home in North Carolina, up I-95...up to the Thruway and all the way home to Albany. New York. It was that much fun.

My final speed was 114. Most were about 118-122, others 108-112, the highest was 124. They say the best is about 135-140 usually. I also was able to receive a photo of me in the race car hand on the wheel all that stuff before I did the first of two stall outs :-p. It's on a plaque and hanging up here in my computer room/office.

At the end, there is an awards ceremony..you get called up and receive a celebratory package...with a breakdown of your lap times, a certificate yo ucan frame saying you completed the experience, and then of course - it is NASCAR - a ton of promotion goodies. No Goody's Headache Powder or John Boy & Billy Grilling Sauce though.

It was certainly a great experience..and if you ever have the opportunity to participate in one. DO IT!

Comments

Cool!!! :)

Next time we're in Orlando (where BTW my sister-in-law lives), I'll have to put that on my "to-do" list.

You are "The World's Fastest Road Enthusiast". :)

Take care and keep on bloggin'.

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