For those who want to experience the thrill of racing, several tracks offer track rides. The Richard Petty Driving Experience, which offers ride-alongs with a professional driver or an opportunity to drive a race car, is available at Daytona, Homestead and Walt Disney World Speedways. www.drivepetty.com. Skip Barber operates a driving school at Sebring International Speedway. www.skipbarber.com.
Car museums range from small facilities that specialize in a certain type of car to one that has 1,200 vehicles on display. They may showcase vintage cars, rare models, cars used in movies, motorcycles or other types of vehicles.
Following is a more detailed look at selected car race tracks and car museums.
• Daytona International Speedway: The Daytona 500 takes place Feb. 24 next year during the track’s renowned Speed Weeks, which will kick off with a sports car race Jan. 25-27 and continues with the NASCAR Speed Weeks Daytona Shootout Feb. 16 and a new event, the USNOH Battle at the Beach Feb. 18-19. Two weeks later, the track will host the Daytona 500 motorcycle race.
Another major competition at Daytona comes the July 4 weekend, climaxing with the Coke Zero night races July 5 and 6, followed by the largest fireworks show in the Southeast.
Even if one doesn’t attend a major race, there’s plenty to see and do at the Speedway, which is open year around. Speedway tours take guests to areas not normally open to visitors, such as the drivers’ meeting rooms and NASCAR Sprint Cup Garages. Three levels of tours are offered daily except during event days and holidays. The track also offers the Richard Petty Driving Eperience, which puts the guest into a stock car for a run around the oval. Several levels are offered, ranging in price from $135 to $2,199. www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com.
• Sebring International Raceway: The 12 Hours of Sebring, a sports car race that is that track’s best-known competition, attracts a fiercely loyal following. “We get a lot of people whose fathers brought them here. It’s a family tradition,” said Breslauer. Interestingly, he said, while NASCAR fans elsewhere root for a driver, Sebring sports car fans root for a car.
The track also hosts the Sebring Historics Oct. 26-28, which features vintage car races. Many companies and race groups use the track for tests during the year, and guests are welcome to watch these at no charge.
In spring and winter, the track also has a Skip Barber Racing School on its grounds. www.sebringraceway.com.
• Homestead Miami Speedway: Top race event of the year here is Ford Championships Weekend, which will mark its 11th year Nov. 16-18. Like other major races, it attracts a wide range of visitors.
“We get fans from all 50 states and 14 countries,” said the track’s Ken Steiren. Some 80,000 are expected to watch the Ford Ecobost race.
The track also has a Richard Petty Driving Experience for part of the year. It is active 280 days of the year with private testing, club events and what Steiren calls “weekend warrior types.” www.homesteadmiamispeedway.com.
• Other race tracks: Most other Florida tracks conduct races on Friday or Saturday nights. Lists of all Florida car race tracks, including dirt ovals, drag strips and Kart tracks, which are not discussed in this article, can be found at www.na-motorsports.com/Tracks/FL/, www.racereview.com/florida.htm, or www.2havefun.com/racing/racing-in-florida.shtml.