Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Richard Petty Driving Experience: 'You ready to go fast'?

Posted By on Tue, Jun 16, 2015 at 3:55 PM

Our digital editor Craig Lemley captures our excitement best:
I've been thinking of nothing but Talladega Nights for the past two days. I climb in through the window of the car to find a portly, red-faced driver waiting to greet me. "My name's Ricky," he says, his voice muffled by his helmet. "You ready to go fast?"
True story. Last Thursday, we ventured to the Pikes Peak International Raceway for a media preview (I suppose I could call it the "Rev It Up Mixer" as they did) of three entertainment attractions available as of July 3 at PPIR: 

The Richard Petty Driving Experience Ride-Along
PPIR's Time Attack
The Off-road Experience Ride Along with Zero1 

If all you might want to know is "what was it like?" then the easy answer for all of the above is AWESOME. See for yourself in these two videos we filmed during our rides:



But if you care to learn a little more, you can of course click on the above links for details on each opportunity plus pricing info (the three-lap ride-along we did is $99, for example). 

The newsiest bit of it all is that PPIR is now a permanent host of the Richard Petty Driving Experience year-round, as that company also operates driving and riding programs in more than a dozen other U.S. cities. 

Our three-lap ride along was seriously thrilling. Swapping stories afterward with other media guests, we found that common side effects to the ride were a mildly queasy belly from the G-force around turns, a goofy perma-grin the whole time, and a little fear and apprehension mixed in with a lot of excitement. 

As for adrenaline opportunities, I'd place a ride-along above ziplines and up there with bungee jumping and just short of skydiving. It was at-first terrifying to head into turns at such high speeds, feeling like surely we'll spin out or tumble off the track and slam into the wall. The perspective from inside the car is totally incomprehensible from the bleachers. With such a long track, they just don't look that fast roaring by, but from inside, the metal fence posts above the wall blur by as perhaps the easiest point of reference of the excessive ground speed. 

click to enlarge It takes a dedicated pit crew to orchestrate racing. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • It takes a dedicated pit crew to orchestrate racing.

click to enlarge There I was thinking that thumbs up meant how much fun I was having. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • There I was thinking that thumbs up meant how much fun I was having.

click to enlarge Again, this pic gives no sense of how fast that car is actually moving and what it feels like to be inside. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Again, this pic gives no sense of how fast that car is actually moving and what it feels like to be inside.


For the Time Attack course, we got to get behind the wheel ourselves and drive these sports cars:

click to enlarge That's one muscly car hood. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • That's one muscly car hood.

But we didn't reach too-high of speeds on account of an obstacle course of cones set up to make us weave back and forth around tight turns — best times were just under 30 seconds. 

click to enlarge Some cones act as gates you must pass through. Others force you to weave back and forth. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Some cones act as gates you must pass through. Others force you to weave back and forth.

And for the Zero1 off-road experience, we once again climbed in next to professional drivers to this time kick up large dust clouds and experience three separate jumps where the vehicles catch air. The suspensions on these guys are amazing; my driver said the shocks travel as much as 18 inches to absorb our landings, which were remarkably smooth. The first time we caught air I couldn't help but tense up for the landing and expect a sore butt, but they really come down easy. 

I, of course, joked that I needed one of these buggies (which cost around $90,000) to properly hit all the potholes around Colorado Springs, since there's often no way around them and so many sneak up on you. Trust me, you wouldn't feel a thing anymore. No more teeth rattling and spilled coffee: It'd be Mad Max fantasies all the way. 

click to enlarge Driving on pavement in these guys is like riding your full suspension mountain bike on the streets: the nearby dirt and grass just call to your soul. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Driving on pavement in these guys is like riding your full suspension mountain bike on the streets: the nearby dirt and grass just call to your soul.


click to enlarge Turns are taken tight and the buggies compensate beautifully. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Turns are taken tight and the buggies compensate beautifully.

In closing, I'll say that even though I grew up in Alabama (not far from Talladega), around much NASCAR culture, I've never been a fan of the sport or car enthusiast of any sort for that matter. So my opportunity to experience what it's like on the inside at least informed me as to why other folks go obsessive around race cars.

They're hella fast, and loud engines and exhaust and dirt and grease and sweat — it's hot inside those cars — all appeal to our primitive brains, for some reason. This is knuckle-walking and chest-pounder territory for guy and girl alike.

I caught myself pondering why we would be amused by going around and around in circles and building machines capable of ramping over logs — what's the point of it all? All I could reduce that to for an answer was this: It's fun.

Why do we do so many other things for amusement? Someone's kayaking is another person's gaming or knitting. Most of us do drive on city streets and highways and occasionally mountain roads, and left to our own devices many of us would probably speed if legally given the chance. God made us with lead feet, seemingly. These experiences help us safely exorcise those curious demons. 

I'm probably overanalyzing all this to an annoying degree, but could that be called a public good? 

I don't know. But to answer Ricky's question, yes, I am most certainly ready to go fast, sir. Please, may I have another lap? 

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