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.

IndyCar releases schedule for 2023 season

IndyCar schedule 2023
Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NTT IndyCar Series’ 2023 schedule will feature the same number of races and tracks as this season with some minor reshuffling of dates.

IndyCar will open the 2023 season March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, and will conclude Sept. 10 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The 107th Indy 500 will take place May 28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 17-race schedule will conclude with a stretch of eight races in the final nine weeks.

“The NTT IndyCar Series is on an impactful upward trajectory, making progress at a pace that befits our thrilling style of competition,” Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “The 2023 season provides an opportunity to further build on this trend, bringing our sport and its stars to more markets and households and reaching new consumers across the globe.”

There will be 15 events on NBC: 13 races (including six of the final seven) plus Indy 500 qualifying May 20-21. There also are three races on USA Network and the Toronto race exclusively on Peacock. All races on NBC and USA also will have live simulstreams on Peacock.

In partnership with NBC Sports, the 2022 IndyCar season was the most-watched in six years and the most-watched across NBC Sports on record. The 2022 season also was the most streamed season on record.

“We’re very excited for our 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule and to build on this past season’s viewership milestones,” NBC Sports vice president of programming Mike Perman said in a release. “In providing comprehensive coverage across NBC, Peacock and USA Network, NBC Sports is once again looking forward to telling the stories of these world-class drivers and this compelling series.”

Notable elements on the 2023 schedule:

–There will be the same balance of seven road course races, five street courses and five ovals.

–St. Pete will be the season opener for the 13th time.

–The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will move from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown.

–The NASCAR doubleheader weekend at the IMS road course will shift to mid-August.

–The World Wide Technology Raceway event will move from Saturday to Sunday.

Start times for the 2023 events will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the 2023 IndyCar schedule:

Date Race/Track Network/Platform
Sun., March 5 Streets of St. Petersburg NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 2 Texas Motor Speedway NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 16 Streets of Long Beach NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 30 Barber Motorsports Park NBC, Peacock
Sat., May 13 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) NBC, Peacock
Sun., May 28 The 107th Indianapolis 500 NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 4 Streets of Detroit NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 18 Road America USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 2 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 16 Streets of Toronto Peacock
Sat., July 22 Iowa Speedway – Race 1 NBC, Peacock
Sun., July 23 Iowa Speedway – Race 2 NBC, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 6 Streets of Nashville NBC, Peacock
Sat., Aug. 12 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) USA Network, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 27 World Wide Technology Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 3 Portland International Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 10 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca NBC, Peacock

*dates and networks/platforms are subject to change