I strap myself in, wait for the “Start your engines” announcement. The lights tick down. Green! I hit the accelerator and roar onto the track in my first Daytona 500 race. Zooming around the famed banked raceway, I’m passing cars, squealing tires and feeling a super adrenaline rush. The speedometer shows I’m going nearly 200 mph. Then … I clip another car’s fender. Start spinning, then flipping. My passenger screams! The car lands upside-down. Race over … or is it? Suddenly, my car’s been righted and I finish the race!
Luckily, the action didn’t take place on the actual asphalt, but instead in Acceleration Alley, one of the many activities available at the Daytona 500 Experience, a family-friendly attraction next to the famed racetrack in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Acceleration Alley is a driving experience that pits guests against each other in NASCAR simulators that combines motion, video projection and sound to give drivers a taste of what it’s like to race in the iconic Daytona 500.
The 60,000 square feet attraction offers hours of entertainment for visitors. Among the activities:
- Another motion simulator ride, Daytona Dream Laps, seats 32 guests for a full-range motion experience of a NASCAR race.
- Ever thought those guys in Pit Row made changing tires look easy? Find out what it’s really like at the Chevy 16-Second Pit Stop Challenge, where guests can try to beat the clock by wielding jacks and air wrenches to change tires on an actual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race car.
- Check out the IMAX theater where you can get close to the action while viewing “NASCAR 3D: The IMAX Experience” or “DAYTONA 500: The Movie.”
- Upon leaving the IMAX theater, guests enter Gatorade Victory Lane, where the latest winning car in the Daytona 500 will be parked, “straight from the track” with scratches, dents and all.
- Throughout the attraction, visitors can view historic videos, see the real cars of racing icons and engage in many more fun racing-related experiences. Included in the displays is Sir Malcolm Campbell’s original Bluebird V, a car that set the world land speed record on Daytona Beach in 1935.
- In addition, guests can sign up at the attraction to take a tram tour of the Daytona International Speedway or take part in the Richard Petty Driving Experience, which offers a ride-along experience on the track at speeds up to 150 to 160 mph.
Outside the attraction is the Daytona 500 Champion’s Walk of Fame, in which winning drivers of the race have their handprints, right footprints and signatures immortalized in a series of concrete panels laid into the sidewalk. Sadly, Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s special brass panel bears only his name and an illustration of the racing legend: The walk was created after his tragic on-track death in the 2001 Daytona 500.
The Daytona 500 Experience is off Interstate 95 (Exit 261A) along International Speedway Boulevard (U.S. 92), about 60 miles northeast of Orlando. Admission is $24 for adults, $19 for seniors and ages 6-12, and free for ages 5 and under. Additional fees are charged for some experiences, and some may not be available during races. For more information, visit www.daytona500experience.com.