For my 60th birthday I was given the experience of a lifetime with a day at the Richard Petty Driving Experience at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Excited and apprehensive, I arrived at the track early in the morning and drove through a tunnel to the center of the track to go to the central garage and office area of the Speedway. It was a thrill just to be in the Infield. At the Driving Experience Office I met others who also had signed up for this thrill. All of us were a bit nervous as we were briefed on all aspects of driving a race car and what we would be doing that day on the track.
Next we climbed into vans for a ride around the track with an instructor. Stopping at various places on the track he schooled us on the proper way to drive in that particular section. We just hoped we could remember the instructions at the critical times, and our hearts thumped harder. Back at the office we received serious safety instructions and then had to sign our lives away before putting on official racing suits and helmets, constructed for extreme safety and fireproof.
We were each to drive one at a time. My turn was about mid-way of the group, so I could watch some of the others before I drove. With each one my anticipation grew. Finally they called my number. The pros helped me climb into the car window, since race cars do not have doors. They belted me in as if I were a child and then showed me all the gauges and controls. Wow, could I really keep all of these dials straight? I would be driving solo! I felt my pulse going through the roof, but my hands were steady and I was pumped!
Then a true race car driver got in another race car ahead of my car to lead the way around the track. The instructors told me to stay behind the race car in front of me at a certain distance and accelerate as the lead car accelerated. Then, like lightning we were off!
The sensation of the power generated by the car as I accelerated, coupled with the feeling of down-force as the car reached greater and greater speeds, was unbelievable! The first lap I was nervous and unsure I could keep up with the car leading me, but as I felt the thrill of the speed and the wonderful handling of the car, I was able to focus on the extreme uniqueness of the experience and become exhilarated at what I was actually being able to do. After eight laps, during which I had the track to myself with the exception of my lead car ahead of me, we coasted down pit lane to a stop with my heart racing on and my whole body vibrating from the experience.
I was told that I had averaged on my best lap 154 miles per hour, which meant I must have reached speeds over 160 miles per hour on the straight-a-ways. This was truly a once in a life-time experience for anyone who wants a brief glimpse at the full race experience. It is open to adult men and women and both were participating that day.
For the millions of people who live within a few hours’ drive from Texas Motor Speedway this is a fun vacation. There are many races, concerts and other events frequently. Anyone who wants the driving experience can contact Texas Motor Speedway Drive Experience 1800 BE-PETTY.
Be sure to follow a day racing with a celebration dinner at one of the restaurants owned by the famous 2007 Iron Chef American Champion on the Food Channel, Tim Love. He has two in Fort Worth: The Love Shack, for excellent burgers and fries; and Lonesome Dove, which featuresand unusual Southwest cuisine and wild game; and his third restaurant will soon be open in Dallas. To Get Fort Worth Visitor’s Guide Check Here and discover hundreds of other fun things to do in Fort Worth.