You don't have to be a racing fan to enjoy a visit to the Daytona International Speedway, 4 miles west of the beach. Opened in 1959 with the first Daytona 500, this 480-acre complex is one of the key reasons for the city's fame. The track presents about nine weekends of major racing events annually, featuring stock cars, sports cars, motorcycles, and go-karts, and is used for automobile and motorbike testing and other events the rest of the year. Its grandstands can accommodate more than 146,000 fans.
The DAYTONA 500 Experience is a 60,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art interactive motor-sports attraction. Here you can learn about the history, color, and excitement of stock car, go-kart, and motorcycle racing in Daytona. In Daytona Dream Laps, you get the feel of what it's like to zoom around the track from a 32-seat motion simulator. If that doesn't get your stomach churning, hop inside your own 80%-scale NASCAR vehicle in Acceleration Alley, buckle up, and roar up to 200 mph in a spectacular simulator for the ultimate virtual reality-like racing experience ($5 per ride). On the milder side, you can participate in a pit stop on a NASCAR Sprint Cup stock car, see an actual winning Daytona 500 car still covered in track dust, talk via video with favorite competitors, and play radio or television announcer by calling the finish of a race. On the newer side: Champions at Daytona, an exhibit paying tribute to speed demons with photos, racing memorabilia, and, of course, cars.
An action-packed IMAX film will put you in the winner's seat of a Daytona 500 race. To experience what it's like, you can make three laps around the track in a stock car from April to October with the Richard Petty Driving Experience Ride-Along Program (tel. 800/237-3889; www.drivepetty.com). Professional drivers (sorry, none is named Petty) are at the wheel as you see and feel what it's like to travel an average of 160 mph. For less intensive tours, the speedway offers an All Access Tour that takes you into the garages, press box, drivers' meeting room, and victory lap; and a Speedway Tour that takes you through the infield and into the garages. Allow at least 4 hours to see everything, and bring your video camera.