advice about whether I should hold off on Richard Petty driving experience

E34lover

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Ok, so my aunt and uncle just gave me yesterday, tickets to do the Richard Petty driving experience in Las Vegas (it's where you get to drive a Nascar for a certain amount of laps). http://www.1800bepetty.com/Experience/Rookie.aspx

They got it for me for my birthday but they didn't give it to me on my actual birthday, Oct. 19, because they wanted to see how my grades turned out. So at first I was like HELLA YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (then proceed the do a 16 year old, immature rant for next 4 hours). Then after reading some thread about what a 16 year old should have for a first car, I realized oh Sh**! I can barley drive a manual how the hell am I going to drive a 600+ hp best. Then I realized holy f**K! I'm just 16 and really I have no driving experience while the people doing this are 30-65 year old men who have lots of experience. I don't want to hurt my aunt and uncle's feelings but to tell you the truth, I'm scared of not being able to control such a beast and crashing. I really think I should wait but I don't know what to do. I mean do y'all think? Should I just tell them that I'm scared of doing this right now or what?
 

Spectre

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Tell them no and get them to send you to the Panoz/Audi Teen Driving Experience instead. Or something like these - they're not your average US driver's educations courses:

http://www.skipbarber.com/driving_school/mazda/new_driver.aspx

http://www.bondurant.com/high_performance_driving_school/teen_driving_program.php
http://www.bondurant.com/high_performance_driving_school/advanced_teenage_driving.php

Those will be a lot more useful and fun than eight or so laps while turning left, left, left, left on an oval.

I recommend the Skip Barber one - Laguna Seca is a track everyone should visit and drive at least once!
 

E34lover

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Tell them no and get them to send you to the Panoz/Audi Teen Driving Experience instead. Or something like these - they're not your average US driver's educations courses:

http://www.skipbarber.com/driving_school/mazda/new_driver.aspx

http://www.bondurant.com/high_performance_driving_school/teen_driving_program.php
http://www.bondurant.com/high_performance_driving_school/advanced_teenage_driving.php

Those will be a lot more useful and fun than six or so laps while turning left, left, left, left on an oval.

I recommend the Skip Barber one - Laguna Seca is a track everyone should visit and drive at least once!
Well that's the thing! I asked a while ago if I could go to performance driving school but some how that turned into "Nah driving school is useless and boring let's throw this inexperienced teen into a 600+ hp best at 200+ mph and see what happens"
 

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I would practice driving a manual a little bit before you go. I even checked the FAQ on the website, and they say no racing experience is required but you should know how to drive a stick. And always, always, always keep in mind that stuff like this is for "having fun", not "finding the limit". There's no shame in saying you're getting overwhelmed if you find yourself getting in over your head while you're driving.

That being said, my friend's father went to this, and he said it was an absolute blast. You'll love it.

EDIT: Instead of the "New Driver" SB program, I'd actually go with the Introduction to Racing program instead. It's cheaper and faster. :)
 
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NooDle

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A friend of mine did Skip Barber and said it was awesomesauce, so that's the one I'd go for...
 

Posmo

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Honestly, I don't think driving a Nascar racer would be that hard, then again, I don't think it would be entertaining either, just: left, straight, left, straight, left.. I'd try and swap the petty Petty ticket for a real performance driving school ticket, that way you WILL have more fun, and you might actually learn something.
 

LeVeL

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I doubt that they would let you push the cars hard so you should manage fine. If they do let people push em, then you really won't be able to get the most out of it because of said lack of driving experience.
+1 for Skip Barber and Bondurant. These will teach you how to properly flog anything on four wheels.
 

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EDIT: Instead of the "New Driver" SB program, I'd actually go with the Introduction to Racing program instead. It's cheaper and faster. :)
Do the driving school, not the racing school. You can't do the racing school if you don't know how to heel-toe. The Formula Dodges they use are extremely delicate and if you don't know how to heel-toe properly they won't let you drive. They're less stingy with the MX5 but it's still not a good idea. If you're 16 and you are not too great with a manual, go for the 1 or 2 day driving school (not the "new driver"). Unfortunately there is no track driving (but they'll give you a track tour if you ask), but you'll learn a lot for sure. Not "racing" a lot, but plenty for road driving or autocross. It's mostly a drift school and you'll spend most of your time on the skid pad.

If you want racing school you need to go to Jim Russell. Skip Barber is far too popular. Good school, but not Jim Russell good. Jim Russell is more expensive though, but you get to drive Radicals and Lola Bo6/30 which is basically an F3 car, instead of Formula Dodges, which are even slower than Formula Fords. In Skip Barber you have RPM limits for half the day, and you have to spend most of the first day on the autocross (to demonstrate your heel-toe before they let you on the track). At Jim Russell it's straight into a 2-seat Radical and onto the track with an instructor. Jim Russell also attracts better racers. Not only will you learn from the instructors but also from your competitors. One guy I raced with ended up being the western Formula Mazda champion (those are Star Mazda cars with a muffler).

Skip Barber is also more commercial. They don't have as good facilities, and you won't learn proper race craft at Laguna Seca. Infineon is a tough place to race and you'll learn a lot on that track. Laguna Seca has 2 passing zones which are very easy, and the rest is a roller coaster. The track almost drives itself. At Infineon you'll learn how to race because while it has similar amounts of passing opportunities, it is a track that you need to conquer rather than go for the ride.

I think the Jim Russell garage says it all:





And here is the Skip Barber "garage":





Yes, they really do keep all the cars out like that. The maintenance area only has space for 2 cars.

Jim Russell does a half-day introduction as well for 800, with the FJR-50 (The F3, probably in school trim which is 150 HP instead of 300). The other thing you get at Jim Russell is your own coach. At Skip Barber you have to share. My coach for my first lesson was a NASCAR driver with 15 years experience, but that was the karting class. You also get 2 full-on races for the 3-day school on the 3rd day. If you did that in the race series it'd cost you $10,000 (85,000 for a full season of 8 weekends).
 
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Jay

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Skip Barber...They don't have as good facilities...
Maybe at Laguna Seca, but at Road America, they sure do! If anyone is reading this, interested in a racing school and lives near Road America, go there.
 

MadCat360

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Maybe at Laguna Seca, but at Road America, they sure do! If anyone is reading this, interested in a racing school and lives near Road America, go there.
Well, yeah, that's their base. And it's not like you're gonna fly halfway across the country to go to Infineon. If you wanted a prestigious driving school that bad you'd go to Europe. E34 lives in Cali so you'd either go to Skippy at Laguna or Russell at Infineon, or fly to Arizona for Bondurant (but Iwouldn't do that).

Besides, they're still gonna use the Formula Dodges.
 

YF19pilot

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Richard Petty Driving Experience.

I will buy a plane ticket, fly to your house in California, and kick you in the nuts and rifle bitch you with my non-CA legal AK-47 if you do not take up this opportunity!

Go to Las Vegas, have fun, don't be such a worry wart. Save the other racing schools for your 17th birthday.

Besides I think the cars are closer to ASA cars or whatever the current late model feeder series is, and most of the people who go to the Richard Petty Driving Experience haven't driven anything wilder than an autobox new Chevy Impala.
 

Steve Levin

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Honestly, I don't think driving a Nascar racer would be that hard, then again, I don't think it would be entertaining either, just: left, straight, left, straight, left.. I'd try and swap the petty Petty ticket for a real performance driving school ticket, that way you WILL have more fun, and you might actually learn something.
You clearly have no idea what you are talking about. There is nothing simple about driving a stock car -- or any racing car -- at speed. You are putting a car on the edge with the challenge that if you go over the edge you will likely hit something fairly hard.

The RP experience should be a lot of fun.

Having limited experience in driving is likely a plus. You have fewer bad habits to unlearn. Accept that the instructors know what they are talking about, drive the car the way they tell you to, and you will outdo all the middle aged men there.

Another alternative in the future to the commercial driving schools would be to go the SCCA route. We can get you plenty of instruction and seat time for less money than the pro schools. But first I suspect you'll have to continue to do well in school. :)

Steve
 
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vegasrebel29

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You clearly have no idea what you are talking about. There is nothing simple about driving a stock car -- or any racing car -- at speed. You are putting a car on the edge with the challenge that if you go over the edge you will likely hit something fairly hard.

Another alternative in the future to the commercial driving schools would be to go the SCCA route. We can get you plenty of instruction and seat time for less money than the pro schools. But first I suspect you'll have to continue to do well in school. :)

Steve
Just to support you on that point (because I intended to make it earlier), just look at all the F1 drivers doing so well in NASCAR. JPM isn't doing terribly, but Villeneuve hasn't cracked it.

Also, you just gave me the BEST idea for what to ask for next Christmas.
 

Twerp128

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Just know at the Richard Petty Experience, that is what your getting, an experience. It will probably be an absolute blast, however you wont be getting an education like a real driving school.
 

Dogbert

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Do the driving school, not the racing school. You can't do the racing school if you don't know how to heel-toe. The Formula Dodges they use are extremely delicate and if you don't know how to heel-toe properly they won't let you drive.
Gwuh? That's the MX5 Intro to Racing I linked to, and they teach you how to heel-toe in the class.

Yes, they really do keep all the cars out like that. The maintenance area only has space for 2 cars.
Well, and they let you look at the cars and have people standing around so you can bother them. Whenever they have a race weekend, they make a massive mini-town of trailers at the track and have all the cars out on display.
 

MadCat360

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Gwuh? That's the MX5 Intro to Racing I linked to, and they teach you how to heel-toe in the class.


Well, and they let you look at the cars and have people standing around so you can bother them. Whenever they have a race weekend, they make a massive mini-town of trailers at the track and have all the cars out on display.
I know the instructors there. They won't let you go out if you can't heel-toe. Like I said they have less strict standard for the MX5, but it's still a cup car. They do a half-morning autocross section and if you can't get it right then you stay there for as many days as it takes. You can't get heel-toe down in that limited space of time unless you're a natural; you need to come prepared. They might handle it differently at the midwest schools (for instance, deferring lack of talent to the transmission damage bill, which is what Russell does). That preparation goes for Jim Russell, too. They put you in the old Formula Russell cars, which are like the F2000s that Skip use for their races, but with a normal manual rather than a sequential. They only have you in there half a day to get used to running the track on your own after the Radical intro day, and to practice lead-follow sessions with the radios.

The race weekend cars for Skip are the F2000s, not the Formula Dodges. They are treated just the same apart from being trailered to a race, as are the Exiges, and the Porsches, and the BMWs; out in the lot, under the weather, with a tarp. It's not bad, the cars are in fine condition, but it's not the best situation either. Then again, the Russell F3s are a lot more delicate as well.

@Steve: I've heard bad stories about SCCA schools (mostly from NASA folks). The gripe is that it's not really enough to prepare you to race, and your instructor is kind of a crap shoot (same with NASA, but they don't admit that), but that's just what I hear. I haven't done SCCA school and I wouldn't have to any way since I've done Jim Russell and Skip.
 
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Steve Levin

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I would definitely practice heel-toe before I went anywhere; you don't want to be spending seat time on something that can be learned entirely in a street car.

In my opinion, if you can find the right HPDE group where you can get a full day of 1-on-1 instruction in a street car that will also be a less expensive -- and very effective -- way of getting some of the basics in your head before getting into the time-constrained program.

Steve
 

MadCat360

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In my opinion, if you can find the right HPDE group where you can get a full day of 1-on-1 instruction in a street car that will also be a less expensive -- and very effective -- way of getting some of the basics in your head before getting into the time-constrained program.

Steve
Seconded. NASA HPDE is about 300 bucks per day (don't know if that includes 1-on-1 in the car), and if you want you can rent a car like a Spec Miata or a BMW Spec E30 for about 500-700 per weekend (one guy I talked to would throw in in-car video AND radio coaching AND telemetry for 700 per weekend). You get, what, 3-4 30-minute runs on race day? So for 600 bucks and the cost of some used tires and a 100 dollar bike helmet you can get 3-4 HOURS of track time over a weekend (You also move up in groups too so if you turn out good you could end up in group 3 by the end of the weekend with no passing restrictions). In a 7-month season of going to Jim Russell I got maybe 8.5 hours of total track time, but then I also got the super-professional coaching.

But hey, for value for money you can't beat a good HPDE or PDX.
 
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Posmo

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You clearly have no idea what you are talking about. There is nothing simple about driving a stock car -- or any racing car -- at speed. You are putting a car on the edge with the challenge that if you go over the edge you will likely hit something fairly hard.

The RP experience should be a lot of fun.

Having limited experience in driving is likely a plus. You have fewer bad habits to unlearn. Accept that the instructors know what they are talking about, drive the car the way they tell you to, and you will outdo all the middle aged men there.

Another alternative in the future to the commercial driving schools would be to go the SCCA route. We can get you plenty of instruction and seat time for less money than the pro schools. But first I suspect you'll have to continue to do well in school. :)

Steve
I thought I sort of implied in my post that I don't know shit about the subject. We can all agree that a proper performance driving school beats a drive in nascar any day.
 

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E34lover: You should absolutely do it! I was in Vegas in 2005 and did the ride-along (not enough time/cash/manual transmission skill for the full driving program) and it was a scream! I asked one of the instructors about the driving program since I'm still interested in doing someday and he told me a bit about it.

You probably won't be going anywhere near 200mph. Speed isn't just based on the car's capabilities, it's based on the driver's capabilities as well. Very few people break lap records with their first time behind the wheel. The driver who took me around the track was their most experienced instructor and he was barely breaking 165mph (granted, the car was carrying the weight of two people and not just one). On the track, they'll probably have you slowly get up to speed and then practice following a line of cars. They emphasize proper car control over high speed. It makes sense since they don't want to lose any cars in reckless crashes. Watching the cars on the track it was easy to tell they weren't going as fast as they could.

The instructor told me that the only experience you need with a manual transmission is enough to get it up to speed entering the track and downshifting on pit road when you're done. When you're at speed on the track you'll probably just be on the gas until it's over without the need to downshift going into the turns and upshift on the way out.

If you're still nervous about doing any actual driving, see if you can exchange the driving experience for a ride-along. Like I said earlier, it was a blast. Bear in mind that it will be over a LOT sooner than a driving experience. When you drive, you take the driver's training course before you get on the track. With the ride-along, you show up, suit-up, strap in, go around for about three laps, get out and it's over.

If you decide to do drive, let us know how it goes! Best of luck!

We can all agree that a proper performance driving school beats a drive in nascar any day.
The Richard Petty Driving Experience is not a proper racing school and they don't pretend to be. It's more about the experience of being in a NASCAR stock car.

I would love to take a proper performance driving course someday... :burnrubber:
 
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