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Story by Janet Webb Farnsworth; Photos by Steve Giordano   February 1, 2012


My personality isn’t the only part of me that is well-rounded. When a slim young man suggested I crawl through a window to get into a race car for a ride-along experience at the Richard Petty Driving Experience at the Walt Disney World Speedway at Disney World, Orlando, Florida, I just snorted. Fat chance I’d fit through that window.

A flood of memories poured in. The TV show Dukes of Hazzard, where, back in the day, skinny little Daisy Duke, wearing almost-not-there denim shorts, would sassily swing in through the window of the bright orange General Lee.



Checking out the equipment

Well, sexy Miss Daisy wouldn’t be crawling into this race car. Shorts aren’t allowed and neither are flip-flops. Hence my outfit. My ample body was clad in a blue and tan fireproof jumpsuit, a head and neck support on my shoulders, a black helmet liner and a black and white crash helmet. I felt about as agile as an elephant.

“We’ll get you in, don’t worry,” said an overly optimistic young man and he let out a loud whistle. Two more men and a stepstool appeared. I contracted, sucked-in, and squirmed. They pushed, pulled, and prodded and with a feet-first plop, I was in the passenger side of a 600-horse-power racing machine. The orange and white Toyota had a white number 20 painted on the door and Home Depot blazed across the hood. NASCAR here I come!

  climb_into_a_race_car.jpg   stuffed_into_a_race_ca  

Climbing into a race car

Getting stuffed into a race car

The driver, Dave Williams, tugged on my three-point safety harness to make sure I was securely fastened then asked if I was ready. I gave him the thumbs-up sign because I’m strapped in so tight I haven’t got any oxygen to waste on talking. Dave slammed his foot on the accelerator, the car lunged forward and I was thrown back into my seat.


“Scared yet?” questioned Dave. I shook my head, “No” and he tried to push his foot even further through the floorboards. We whipped around the banked curves of this NASCAR-type speedway at 140 mph.

The engine heat coming up through the floorboards threatened to melt my tennis shoes. The roar was deafening and constant and the speed kept me pinned to my seat. The scenery was nothing but a blur. The car was going more than 140 but my heart rate was closer to 170.




The photographer has to ride too?

After three breathtaking laps, we coasted into the pit area and the noise level dropped to a dull roar. The three men and their stepstool came to pry me out. I worried they would have to coat me with motor oil to squeeze me back out that window, but with some gravity defying moves they magically had me outside the car and standing on my own two quivering legs.






I’m one big smile. I immediately called my sons to say, “Nan-a-Nan-a-Nan-a. Guess what I just did.” Nothing beats making your kids green with envy.

To learn more click on The Richard Petty Driving Experience at Walt Disney World.



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