The Las Vegas Richard Petty Ride Along Experience

August 22, 2013 by

Action, Adventure & Adrenaline, North America, Places to Go, Things to Do

When you were a kid, did you ever pretend to be a racecar driver? My brother and I did. Little did I realize someday I’d know what it’s really like to ride in a car going 160 miles-per-hour around a racetrack.

Want a ride in one of these?

Want a ride in one of these?

As an adult, I don’t have a “need for speed.” I’m not a NASCAR fan. But I was looking for something to do outside the usual Las Vegas Strip tourist activities. The Las Vegas Richard Petty Ride Along Experience —where guests ride shotgun in a stockcar driven by a professional for three laps around the track—seemed like just the ticket.

The tour included Strip hotel pickup and dropoff by our guide, Christian. Christian first showed us around the Richard Petty garage where he explained how racecars are built and work and gave us a peek under the hood at a 600-horsepower engine. He also showed us how to safely climb in and out of the cars. There was a stop at the gift shop, of course. But most of our time was spent at the Superspeedway.

What the inside of a racecar looks like.

What the inside of a racecar looks like.

The Superspeedway is a 1.5 mile oval track with a 20-degree incline, surrounded by thousands of bleacher seats, billboard advertisements, and the faded purple backdrop of the Nevada mountains. The smell of exhaust hangs heavy in the air. Upbeat country-rock music blares from speakers in the covered waiting area near the pit lane.

Crew members monitored cars, riders, and the track at all times. We were handed grey-and-black racing suits to pull on over our clothes and fitted with helmets. They offered us cold water and jumbo fans to keep us comfortable in the 100-degree heat. Engines buzzed in and faded out as cars sped past on the outer oval and occasionally pulled in and out of the pit area.

The Ride Along racecars go at speeds up to 160mph.

The Ride Along racecars go at speeds up to 160mph.

When it was time for my ride, Christian escorted me out to the car. I slid in the window easily, thanks to his instructions. He strapped me into my safety harness while I met my driver, Don, a weathered 20-year racing veteran. Then we were off on the wildest car ride of my life.

Christian watches me climb into the car

Christian watches me climb into the car

As the car sped up, I was pushed back into my seat, watching the track rushed toward the windshield and then past us at impossible speeds. The roaring of the engine was loud in my ears. Don steered the car into the far right lane, so close to the wall, I stopped breathing for a moment. We sped along the curves of the track.

A grin crept over my face, and I relaxed. Time seemed to go both faster and slower as we circled the oval again and again. I noticed Don’s red-gloved hands on the wheel. The gauges on the dashboard, the needle climbing higher. The wind shaking the safety net over the windows. The bleachers and billboards and mountains passed us three times before the car began to slow, and the car rolled back into the pit area.

Riding Shotgun with my driver, Don.

Riding Shotgun with my driver, Don.

The ride ended all too soon, but the grin still hasn’t gone away. If my experience is typical, you don’t have to be a NASCAR fan to have fun on the Las Vegas Richard Petty Ride Along Experience.

Book the Las Vegas Richard Petty Ride Along Experience.

-Gray Cargill

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