Daytona USA intensifies with Petty Experience

(c) The Orlando Sentinel

Rick Sizenbach, a native of Bluegrass, Iowa, tries the Richard Petty Driving Experience at Daytona.

Just when you thought it couldn't pick up any more speed, the pace at Daytona USA just got faster.

In addition to their variety of video racers and other racing-inspired games, Daytona International Speedway is home to a version of the famed Richard Petty Driving Experience (RPDE), an attraction ride that gives visitors the chance to chase the curves of the Daytona International Speedway in actual stock cars. With its grand opening on Labor Day, 1997, the RPDE has become one of Daytona's premier attractions.

The Experience offers three ways for you to get into the action. For $99, guests can take "The Ride-Along Program,'' which gives you three laps around the Speedway in stock cars driven by professional instructors. RPDE also offers various levels of packages that give guests the chance to actually learn some of the basics of NASCAR driving and take the cars for a spin around the track. Prices for the higher-level Driving Experiences range from $329 to $2399.

Daytona's RPDE is the sixth such attraction to open around the country. Petty started with an attraction at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1990. An Atlanta attraction opened in 1995, with the Las Vegas Experience following it in 1996, and Colorado's Pike's Peak International Speedway and Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom adding their own Experiences in early 1997. 1998 additions to the Richard Petty lineup include Experiences at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth and the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.

The King himself was there to dedicate the Daytona addition.

"It's great to be back home," Petty said in a speech before the ribbon-cutting ceremony. "I've always considered Daytona my home. My dad drove here and this is where I started.''

When asked if he would be doing any of the driving, Petty answered "No. They're afraid to let me loose on the track any more.''

Just the facts: The Ride-Along Program at Daytona International Speedway is available on various dates from July to November. For a full schedule of dates, check out our RPDE schedule page. The cost is $99 for three laps around the track and includes the Daytona USA attraction. For more info on the Speedway, check out Go2orlando's East Coast Beaches Guide. For more information on any of the RPDEs around the country, call 1-800-BE-PETTY.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times