Baseball fans cannot play in a World Series. Football fans cannot play in the Super Bowl. But racing fans can get behind the wheel of a stock car and drive just like their favorite NASCAR stars.
The Richard Petty Driving Experience has been in existence for almost 20 years at nearly two dozen tracks.
"My name's Rusty, I'll be your crew chief. My job is to make sure that each and every one of you leaves here with a smile on your face," crew chief Rusty Robinson tells drivers in the classroom at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando.
Rusty teaches safety and strategy first, before anyone gets behind the wheel of a stock car.
I admit I'm nervous as I get ready to drive a stock car for the first time. Fellow classmate Rodney Sloop has been around the track a few times. Rod has driven a stock car at a dozen tracks, and has earned his nickname, "Hot Rod."
Back in North Carolina, they also used to call Rodney "Dale Earnhardt's chauffeur."
"I grew up with the Earnhardt family. Dale senior used to double date, and I drove. He'd sit in the back seat," Rodney explains.
Rod has simple advice for me:
"Do what the instructor says and go fast, and you'll enjoy it," he says.
Did I mention I was nervous? There are numerous challenges of driving around this one-mile tri-oval track:
Rod hits a high speed of 132 miles per hour. He ends up lapping me three times, even though I do go as fast as 107 miles per hour.
By the end of the eight laps, I finally get the hang of this. Every muscle in my body is tense and I can finally breathe -- it is tough to hold your breath for eight laps!
As crew chief Rusty predicted, I do climb out of the car with a smile on my face.
The Petty Driving Experience costs $450 to drive eight laps. Ride alongs are also available for adults and children.
Your own "in car" video is also available to purchase, along with pictures of your experience.
For more information:
Richard Petty Driving Experience:
Exotic Driving Experience:
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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