Report: Walt Disney World Speedway, track’s Petty Driving Experience program set to close (UPDATED)


“The Mickyard” will be no more.

The track that held the first ever race under Indy Racing League sanction in January 1996, Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, will no longer be a part of the “Magic Kingdom,” per a report by the Orlando Sentinel.

The Sentinel indicates WDWS and its own program for the Richard Petty Driving Experience – the track’s flagship program after all active racing stopped there after 2000 – will close in late June as Disney makes way for new transportation projects, details of which are still to be determined.

Also per the report, there are about 70 employees either as instructors, photographers, and check-in registrars.

Petty Holdings will look for a different venue for another exotic-car attraction in Orlando, per the report.

Petty Holdings has issued a statement on the track closing, which is listed in full below:

Petty Holdings, operator of Richard Petty Driving Experience and Exotic Driving Experience, confirmed that starting July 1, they will no longer operate their experiences out of the Walt Disney World Speedway. Walt Disney World has plans to use the land to make transportation improvements.

“Our main focus at this moment is taking care of our staff and preparing them for the upcoming transition,” said Petty Holdings Vice President Bill Scott.  “Any reserved guests prior to July 1 will have the same fantastic experience that we have delivered since 1997 at Walt Disney World Speedway.”

Anyone booked after June 30 for Richard Petty Driving Experience or Exotic Driving Experience can call 1.800.237.3889 to reschedule their experience at any of their 14 locations nationwide – including the location at Daytona International Speedway. Petty Holdings currently has plans in process for exotics and stock car programs in Orlando.

As for the track’s racing history, that’s been done for 15 years.

The IRL ran its season-opening race there in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000. Buzz Calkins became a trivia answer with his win in the 1996 race.

The 1997 race, meanwhile, came as the third race of the IRL’s lone multiple-year season, when the 1996 season carried over into 1997 as part of a plan to end the season with the Indianapolis 500. That plan was later scrapped to have the seasons run solely in a calendar year.

The 1997 race also marked the debut of the IRL’s new normally aspirated engine formula and new chassis, the genesis of which marked Dallara’s introduction to North American open-wheel racing.

WDWS also held two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races in 1997 and 1998.

WDWS was a one-mile triangle, with full radius first and second turns before almost a kink onto the front straight.

The Indy Racing Experience was also held there for a time (see below), but the track was never brought up to modern-day safety standards. SAFER Barriers – a staple at any oval – were never built, and teams have not sought out the facility to test in years.

Most recently, the Verizon IndyCar Series saw Charlie Kimball and the No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing team film a Novo Nordisk commercial there a couple years ago.