Sunday, March 7, 2004

A quick chat with ... Chris McKee

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Before sports fans wanted to be like Mike, they wanted to be like another North Carolina legend: Richard Petty.

What started 13 years ago as a talent search for new race car drivers has resulted in a program that puts race fans behind the wheel on a track.

The Richard Petty Driving Experience will make six appearances this season at Kentucky Speedway. Fans can ride along or drive a varying number of laps. Chris McKee is the director of marketing for the Petty experience.

Q: OK, let's cut to the chase. How many people have vomited in the car?

A: I've heard stories of that happening once or twice. It's rare. Some people say it's the world's smallest roller coaster. It's much smoother than that.

Q: What's the appeal?

A: In a deep sense, it's something we all have in common. We all drive. It's an apples-to-apples experience. You can't go to Yankee Stadium, put on a uniform and take batting practice.

Q: Even the rich and famous are into this, right?

A: We've had celebrities: John Travolta, Michael J. Fox, Troy Aikman, Britney Spears. And, in your own backyard, Rudi Giuliani rode along at Kentucky Speedway.

Q: Britney Spears?

A: She drove herself and rode along at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. A NASCAR movie was being filmed.

Q: People have to be a licensed driver to drive, obviously. Who was your oldest driver?

A: We had an 82-year-old female who drove at Kansas City. She got out of the car and yelled, "I want to go faster."

Q: How fast?

A: The ride-along can go 170 (miles an hour).

Q: And the drivers?

A: 160.

Q: Height and weight limitations?

A: People who are less than 6 feet 8 and 280 pounds can participate.

Q: Doors?

A: The cars do not have doors, so you have to be able to climb through a 15-inch-high by 30-inch-wide window that is 3 feet from the ground.

Q: What are the different levels of experience?

A: You do not need reservations to do the ride-along (three laps) but do need to call 1-800-BE-PETTY for driving reservations. The drives we offer at Kentucky Speedway include the Rookie Experience (eight laps), the Kings Experience (18 laps) and the Experience of a Lifetime (30 laps).

Q: When will you be at Kentucky Speedway?

A: We will be offering rides and drives starting April 24-25 with a rolling schedule of May 28-30, June 25-27, July 30-31, Aug. 1, 6-8, Sept. 24-26 and Oct. 15-17.

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