We’ve heard about the Richard Petty Driving Experience at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for years, and figured it was about time to grow a pair and test our mettle with a little heavy pedal.
It turns out, the Richard Petty Driving Experience is easily one of the most heart-racing things you can do in Las Vegas.
Here’s how it all goes down.
The Las Vegas Motor Speedway is about 10-15 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip. The trip just got shorter because the Richard Petty Driving Experience recently announced it will provide customers complimentary transportation to and from the Speedway.
Aspiring racecar drivers have the option of being picked up at any of five Strip resorts: Excalibur, Paris, Treasure Island, Mirage and Harrah’s.
Once you arrive a the Las Vegas Speedway, you’re greeted by lots of smiles. Those smiles become critical as you approach the moment when you’re zipping around a racetrack at more than 100 miles an hour. They’re a source of comfort to those of us who may have skipped the daredevil gene. Moving on.
The staff at the Richard Petty Driving Experience are an amazing bunch. You start off with an orientation, and from minute one you get the sense these folks have seen it all, so you’re in good hands.
At the orientation, for starters, you learn more about Richard Petty. Petty, it turns out, won a record 200 races during his career, including seven NASCAR championships. The good news is Petty is still going strong at 77.
You also learn more about the car you’ll be driving. Yes, you. While the Experience offers ride-alongs, the majority of the packages involve actually driving an authentic racecar. With a 600 horsepower engine. Which, even though we have no idea what that means, is a whole lot according to the experts. (By way of comparison, our Honda Accord has a 177-horsepower engine and can only go 81 miles per hour. Downhill. With a tailwind.)
Safety is of the utmost concern, of course. The briefing is detailed enough to instill confidence, but not particularly long or lecturey, which we’re fairly confident is not a word.
Soon, you’re out in a staging area next to the track. The same track professional drivers use. To drive at speeds approaching those of commercial aircraft.
You’re geared up, with a fireproof suit and helmet. They go on over your street clothes. And there are lockers nearby for your valuables.
Next, you meet your co-pilots. These intrepid individuals sit in the passenger seat, possibly praying harder than anyone’s ever prayed.
Seriously, though, these drivers-slash-instructors-slash-cheerleaders are some of the bravest people we’ve ever met. They get into racecars with strangers, with no idea of their driving skill or penchant for having freak-outs. Which this blog definitely didn’t have more than six or seven times during our time on the track.
Just before getting into our car, we asked for any last minute instructions, and were told: “No right turns.” Race driver humor, apparently.
If you know how to drive stick, you’re set. If not, no worries, there’s a truck that pushes your car to get it up to speed (photo, below). At that point, there’s no shifting, you never leave the fastest gear (fourth, from what we remember).
Driving a NASCAR racecar is truly surreal.
The “white-knuckle” part is true to the Experience’s marketing materials, but as you take to the track, you have the comforting voice of your instructor in your ears. In our case, the instructor’s voice mainly said, “You can speed up.” We tended to not listen. Because if something were to happen to us, where would you get your Las Vegas news and baseless rumors?
Speeds on the 1.5-mile tri-oval track can get up to 165 miles per hour. It’s a pure rush of adrenaline, no matter what speed you hit.
Your speed is recorded for each lap, so you can review how you did when you’re done.
How fast did we go? Well, in the words of our ever-patient instructor, “We weren’t giving out any speeding tickets here today.”
Here’s a look at the promotional video for the Richard Petty Driving Experience.
A ride-along, which we suspect is its own source of adrenaline, runs $109. Packages run from $499 for eight laps up to $2,699 for 50 laps. See details.
At first, we figured the Richard Petty Driving Experience was a novelty, primarily for NASCAR fans. (They are legion.)
But after our visit, it’s clear the Richard Petty Driving Experience is for anyone interested in driving really, really fast while having a once-in-a-lifetime blast in Las Vegas.
Thanks to the team at the Richard Petty Driving Experience for hosting this blog’s visit, and special thanks to our in-car instructor, Mark Skinner, for not letting us burst into flames.
Find out more about this unique thing to do in Las Vegas at the official site. More pics below, because that’s how we roll. Sometimes, literally.
Richad Petty Driving Experience