Richard Petty Driving Experience introduces new Cars-themed junior ride-alongs at Walt Disney World


UPDATE: Congrats to Christina Santiago who won the cool Poster! Email on its way.

Finally, guests at Walt Disney World can find out what it feels like to be part of the world of Disney-Pixar’s “Cars.” Although we haven’t gotten our own Cars Land on the East Coast yet, the Richard Petty Driving Experience is putting youngsters inside cars designed to look like racers from the Piston Cup in Pixar’s “Cars,” and they can feel the exhilarating speed portrayed in the movie.

Beginning today at the Walt Disney World Speedway, kids ages 6 to 13 can choose the new Junior Ride-Along experience, which allows them to ride with a professional driver for three laps on a 1-mile course in cars that bring characters Sage VanDerSpin and Aiken Axler to life.

Richard Petty Junior Ride Along

In the movie, No. 80 VanDerSpin races for Team “Gask-its” and is the youngest winner of the Junior Piston Cup Pro Series. Axler is the No. 28 Nitroade racer who captured the Vitoline Rookie of the Year honors in his first full season of Cup competition. The two full-size custom character cars were created by “Cars” creative director Jay Ward, who was at the Orlando track on Friday to introduce them to media.

Petty Holdings initially began its relationship with Pixar when Richard Petty became the voice of “The King” in the original “Cars” movie.


Long before the kids get in the real-life cars, though, they go through a multi-step process of safety instruction that is reassuring to both the young riders and their parents. First, kids must be at least 48 inches tall — there is a fun mural for families to make sure their youngsters measure up — and meet the age requirements.

Richard Petty Junior Ride Along

Richard Petty Junior Ride Along

Richard Petty Junior Ride Along

Then, each child suits up in a coverall to protect him or her from any parts of the car that may have heated up in the Florida sun. A soft, knitted cap goes under the snug-fitting helmet, and a HANS (Head and Neck Support) device is fitted around the neck and attached to the helmet. Inside the car, each person wears a five-point harness, which can be seen in the video below. In addition, the seats for this children’s program were custom-built by The Joie of Seating, which makes racing seats for professional drivers.

Richard Petty Junior Ride Along

Watching your child get into a car that will travel at about 100 miles an hour is not something most parents take lightly. However, the emphasis on safety at the Richard Petty Driving Experience and the experienced professional drivers make this a very controlled racing event, which set my mind at ease.

Richard Petty Junior Ride Along

Richard Petty Junior Ride Along

Richard Petty Junior Ride Along

My nine-year-old daughter, who has never met a roller coaster she didn’t like, was excited about the new themed Junior Ride-Alongs. She said she really enjoyed traveling in the blue VanDerSpin — the faster, the better. The best part was crossing the checkered finish line, which made her feel like she was in the “Cars” movie.

Richard Petty Junior Ride Along

Fans who want to take home a souvenir of their once-in-a-lifetime experience can purchase a video like the one below for $49.

The new Piston Cup Cars Junior Ride-Along costs $59 plus tax. Parents must be present with their children and sign a waiver for them to participate. The Walt Disney World Speedway also offers ride-alongs for those 14 and older in other stock cars for $79 plus tax.

Reservations are not necessary for ride-alongs, which are available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. For additional questions, visit or call 1-800-237-3889.

If you have visited the Richard Petty Driving Experience at Walt Disney World or have questions about the junior ride experience, tell/ask us about it in the comments for a chance to win the poster pictured below. A winner will be chosen at random and notified by June 20, 2014.

Richard Petty Junior Ride Along

Automotive Designer Chip Foose talks about working with Pixar and Disney on the Cars franchise. Foose designed Ramone in the first Cars Movie.

DISCLAIMER: My daughter and I were guests of the Richard Petty Driving Experience. This did not affect my story; my opinions are my own.


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18 Replies to “Richard Petty Driving Experience introduces new Cars-themed junior ride-alongs at Walt Disney World”

  1. We have seen the track from the bus a few times but were never sure how to get there using Disney Transportation. Do you have to walk from Magic Kingdom or is there a special bus you can take?

  2. Is there a way to get there using Disney transportation? We are surprising our sons with the junior ride along after a breakfast at the Polynesian.

    KRISTIN: Yes, take the monorail from the Polynesian to the Transportation and Ticket Center. Exit the monorail there and go to the Lost & Found Building, which used to be the old kennel, adjacent to the ticket windows. There are shuttles that leave from there and go back to the track. You should call 1-800-237-3889 to check the schedule, which is subject to change.

  3. Thank you for this extremely nice article. I hope to take my kids to this one day.

    I’m a huge Cars fan and wanted to know if the poster that was given away can be purchased anywhere? If not is it possible to receive a printable picture?

    KRISTIN: I don’t believe it is available anywhere else, but you might call the Walt Disney World Speedway and ask if they have any left over. Can’t hurt!

  4. I can’t wait to surprise my 7- year-old nephew with the ride-a-long experience when we visit WDW next Spring! The entire trip will be a surprise for him and his 6-year-old sister. It will be their first visit to Disney and their first ever plane ride. My niece will be doing the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and this will be the perfect special event for him!

  5. Thank you for the article. My boys would rather be in a traditional race car instead of from the movie Cars. Is that an option?

    KRISTIN: Yes, definitely.

  6. This looks so fun! My brother just turned 14, so he will be too big for the “Cars” cars. Maybe he will try the regular cars.

    My question is for your daughter: my brother likes to go fast, but does not like roller coasters mostly because of the height. Did this feel like riding a roller coaster? Or more like riding fast in a regular car?

    KRISTIN: My daughter says it feels like a fast car, not a roller coaster.

  7. This is so cool !! I have heard about this and its always been in the back of my mind to try , but never could quite fit it in. I have 2 boys that are 7 years apart and always felt the youngest was too young. He has turned 8 so I feel it may be time !! I always thought the Rich Petty experience was over near or at the sports complex , am I right ? So, this track that is by TTC is only for Jr Ride Alongs and only for the CARS cars ? At the other track older kids ( I have a 15 yr old ) and younger kids can ride just not in CARS cars …..correct or no ?? Your daughter is adorable and what a little dare devil ….. she said she LOVED it but man she looked calm like that was just a little fun ride …no big deal …lets do it agin and even faster please !!!!

    KRISTIN: Thank you! Richard Petty Driving Experience is based at the Walt Disney World Speedway right outside the Magic Kingdom at the edge of the Transportation and Ticket Center. All the drive-alongs and ride-alongs for kids and adults take place there. The Cars-themed cars are only for ages 6 to 13.

  8. Our grandson is from a “racing” family and we are going to surprise him with a ride in July! Thank you for letting us know!

  9. My son, Mick, did the ride along today. He is NOT a roller coaster kid. But he is absolutely a Nascar fan. He wanted to do it as soon as it was announced. We met the crew from the driving experience on Sunday at the downtown Disney car show. Got to the track today. He’s 5’8″ at only 12 years. He was in the #9 Marcos Ambrose car which made it even more exciting since that is more like the real thing car looking-wise. Totally loved the experience. He’s ready to go again.

  10. My oldest son (on his 16th birthday) did the ride along in the exotic cars. LOVED it! My youngest then decided he wanted to ride. He did the race cars (he was 10, not old enough for the exotics) But he loved his ride too!! We stood in the pit and took tons of pictures and video! Plus each of them got a flashdrive (we paid for them) with video on it of them in the cars. And a picture. Planning on going back next summer. Hoping they keep the Cars cars! And the oldest would now like to drive…not just ride!! If your thinking about doing it…go for it!!

  11. What a great idea! We’re not racing fans, but we are “Cars” fans; so this appeals to a whole new demographic.

  12. My son would love this!! How long is the actual ride along and do they give the kids earplugs (is it very loud for them in the car)?

    KRISTIN: Junior Ride-Alongs are three laps around the track. Kids do not wear earplugs so they can hear the driver, but they do have the soft beanie and thick helmet over their ears.

  13. Are there cast and or passholder discounts on the kids rides?

    KRISTIN: Annual passholders and DVC members receive 20 percent off. Cast members will need to show their IDs and inquire at the track.

  14. I have treated my husband to the Richard Petty Experience twice and the second time my son was tall enough to do the ride-along so we surprised him by signing him up. It made their day and it’s so exciting watching them enjoy their special day. I’m really excited for the Cars ride-along!!

  15. I so glad to see the Richard Petty Driving Experience set up for kids now. My husband has done the driving experience a couple of times, and has loved it!

    KRISTIN: They actually have had junior ride-alongs for a couple of years, but the cool Cars cars are a new addition. They really are fun!

  16. Now, this looks like a very fun way to spend time at WDW! I definitely need to take the kids on our next trip! Thank you for the great article!

  17. My family consists of myself, husband and two kids. What if only one child wants to participate in this driving experience? What do the 3 of us do while he is being instructed? Do we sit and listen in? Are parents (and siblings) taken to another area for a talk? Just wondering how the “before” works out. Also, how long is this experience, start to finish? Should we allow a half day or less?
    Thank you!

    KRISTIN: If the track is not unusually crowded, you can be done with the experience in 30 minutes. It would be convenient to do on the same day as the Magic Kingdom, because the track is located adjacent to the Transportation and Ticket Center. And family members are welcome and encouraged to go to the safety briefing. There is a covered area next to the track with seating for viewing and photos during the ride-along. Hope that helps!