Disney Travel Tip Tuesday – Richard Petty Driving Experience

Sharing weekly tips that will save you time, money or simply make life easier on your upcoming Walt Disney World vacation.

Below is an excerpt from an article that I originally wrote for the WDWFanZone. It is all about the time that I experienced “The Thrill of a Lifetime” at the Richard Petty Driving Experience at Walt Disney World. I highly recommend this experience to anyone looking for an adrenaline rush on your Disney vacation. To make reservations, call 1-800-BE-PETTY. Right now, teens between the ages of 14 and 19 ride free when you purchase any Driving Experience or Ride-Along Experience for the same day! Visit Teens Ride Free for more information.

Hope you enjoy my article:

“In February, 2010, I was invited to represent the Walt Disney World Moms Panel for the Grand Re-Imagining of the ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex during ESPN-The Weekend. Two other fellow Panelists, Kay and Joel, joined me for this incredible weekend as well. In addition to attending the various press events and interviewing favorite athletes, we were given the opportunity to choose to participate in one of several other activities. Among the options, was the Richard Petty Driving Experience (RPDE) at Walt Disney World Speedway. (http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/recreation/richard-petty-driving-experience/). We were told we would have the option of either riding shotgun with an experienced driver (“The Ride-Along Experience”) or actually driving the race car ourselves (“The Rookie Experience”). Now, I’m a daredevil who loves Tower of Terror and all Roller Coasters. However, I also pride myself on being rational. I had no intention of actually driving a race car! I was, however, very excited at the prospect of riding shotgun. The website had described it this way: “Ride-along shotgun from the passenger seat as one of our professional instructors takes you for 3 laps around the track at speeds up to 165mph”, this seemed like the ultimate thrill ride to me!

When I left home, my husband and children were excited to hear what I thought of riding with a professional driver in a real race car. In talking it over with my husband, I had entertained the idea of actually driving for a split second, and I quickly changed my mind. In fact, Kay, Joel and I had every intention of doing the Ride-Along.  That all changed in one brief, but highly inspirational conversation with a RPDE employee named Derek.

I had approached the counter to sign on the dotted line, and I quickly discovered that the form (which was printed) was actually for, “The Rookie Experience”.  The description said something along the lines of: “Ready to drive a race car? Your hands are on the wheel, your foot is on the gas, and you’re in the driver’s seat for 8 laps over 1 session around the track in a 600 horsepower NASCAR race car.” My heart skipped a few beats, and I mumbled something to Derek about how I wasn’t really sure that I was going to be driving…I was thinking I’d do the Ride-Along. What he said to me next will stick with me forever. He said, “You don’t live life in the passenger seat, do you?! Come on, Kaylene, grab a hold of the wheel and drive!” Instantly I went from thinking I’d be a “Ride-Along Passenger” to knowing that I’d be behind the wheel of a 600 horsepower racing machine!

Disney Moms Panelists Kay B, Kaylene J. and Joel K.

Disney Mom Kay was super nervous too and Disney Dad Joel had never driven a stick-shift. Together, the 3 of us conquered our fears and we experienced an adrenaline rush unlike any other we’ve ever known.  We sat through the very thorough instruction class, and then headed outside for our turn to drive.  Since sometimes a picture can speak a thousand words, I wanted to share a few with you:

Deb Wills- AllEars.net , John Frost- TheDisneyBlog.com, Kay, Joel and I waiting for our turns to drive.
That’s me in there…ready to drive a 600 hp racing machine! I climbed in the window and got my final instructions and pep talk.
“Push in your clutch, put it in First…and be in Third gear by the time you are out of Pit Road”.
Following my pace car, I’m off! I was so proud to get out of Pit Road smoothly!
That’s me! Woo hoo!! My Top Speed was 110 mph!!

Friends, as I mentioned above, I’m a fan of thrill rides. Let me just tell you…nothing compares to driving a NASCAR race-car 110 mph, eight times around a track! Nothing. It was truly the thrill of a lifetime! My hands gripped that steering wheel so tightly, my heart was pounding and I was grinning from ear to ear! This was such an AMAZING experience…one of those things that I NEVER thought I’d ever do.

I highly recommend that everyone try the Richard Petty Driving Experience. Feeling the adrenaline rush while conquering your fears is totally amazing! I’m so proud of all 3 of us. You see, Joel had never driven a stick shift and he was able to rock this experience…driving 114 mph!! Kay faced her fears, and came out on top. This was SO cool and I’m thrilled to have shared it with Kay and Joel! I’ll cherish those memories forever. Sure, I was scared…but I embraced the opportunity and am SO glad that I did. Besides, it earned me some serious, “Cool Mom” points in the eyes of my kids. Trying the Richard Petty Driving Experience firsthand was invaluable in that I can give my honest feedback to Guests, and tell them what it is really like. This may be hard though, as it was almost indescribable!

If you ever have the opportunity to try The Rookie Experience, my advice to you is, “Just grab a hold of the wheel and drive!” This THRILL OF A LIFETIME is the stuff Magical Memories are made of!

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