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As I zipped up my fireproof race suit, it occurred to me that I might lose my breakfast. As a participant of the NASCAR Rookie Driving Experience in Daytona Beach, Fla., I would be alone in a mega-fast stock car, and turned loose on the most iconic track in motorsports with permission to hit 150 mph.
“Just go fast, stay left and don’t hit anything,” said pit crew chief Darrell Johnson, concluding the 40-minute safety class before we stepped onto Pit Row (where vehicles stop for refueling).
Mine was one of eight bucket-list driving adventures offered by The Daytona, Marriott Autograph Collection’s newly opened hotel. The options include the Junior Ride Along, where children are fitted with a racing helmet, strapped into a car and get to ride shotgun with a professional racing instructor for three thrilling laps around the oval.
Located across from Daytona International Speedway and inspired by its distinctive tri-oval shape, the 144-room, full-service hotel celebrates racing history down to the tiniest details. Kids will love the interactive second-floor lobby, The Grid, which showcases racing memorabilia and a rotating collection of vintage cars.
In addition, families will enjoy One Daytona, a retail, dining and entertainment district that surrounds Victory Circle, which hosts regular concerts and classic car exhibits.
The driving experiences attract thrill-seekers, adrenaline junkies and motorsports fanatics from around the world, including one man in front of me on Pit Row wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with “Speed Demon.”
My eight minutes on the track whizzed by in an instant. I may have been the slowest driver on the course, but during my final exhilarating lap, I felt like a speed demon, too.
The Daytona partners with the Speedway, offering daily track tours and NASCAR Racing Experience packages, including the $80 Junior Ride Along for children 48 inches and taller, and the $450 Rookie Experience, where participants drive a NASCAR stock car for eight minutes. NASCAR Racing Experience packages are commissionable to travel advisors when booked through the hotel.
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