Will not reopen May 1 as stated after fatal crash.
The Richard Petty Exotic Driving Experience at Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Florida will not reopen May 1 as previously announced, as the investigation continues into the April 12 crash that killed instructor Gary Terry.
"Exotic Driving Experience in Orlando will remain closed as we work with the Florida Highway Patrol regarding the ongoing investigation," a spokeswoman for Petty Holdings, which operates the racing attraction, told the Orlando Sentinel. OSHA, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which investigates workplace accidents, is also looking into the crash. It is unclear if it the exotic experience will ever reopen at Disney.
Terry was killed when driver TaVon Watson, behind the wheel of a Lamborghini Gallardo (similar to the one in the photo) with Terry in the passenger seat, lost control of the sports car, spun and struck an unprotected portion of an infield barrier. Early reports suggest the car and barrier made contact at or near the passenger door, killing Terry, a Petty operations manager who had competed in NASCAR regional series. He had also competed regularly as part of a racing family in his home state of Michigan. Watson was treated and released from a local hospital the same day.
The exotic experience is an offshoot of the Richard Petty Driving Experience's core business, which is giving rides and allowing drives in vehicles similar to a NASCAR Sprint Cup car. The Disney office was the busiest in the Petty chain due to the Florida weather and the year-round access to the Disney World Speedway, which was built to host IndyCar and NASCAR events, but hasn't been used for racing in years.
The circuit used for the exotic experience involves a zig-zag portion of pavement in the infield, and uses part of the oval, but has the exotic Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Porsches traveling in the opposite direction of the stock cars. The opening in the barrier that Watson and Terry hit was a notch used to allow emergency vehicles onto the oval track, and was not designed for traffic traveling the opposite way on the oval. The end of the barrier apparently was not protected.
Closed for good soon regardless
Earlier this year, well before the fatal crash, Disney had told the Petty Experience that the track would be closed for good this summer, a decision that surprised no one given the almost day-to-day operation of the oval, which has no grandstands and only a handful of permanent buildings, most of them used by the Petty Experience. Reportedly Disney wants to use the land for parking.
Petty has resumed the stock car portion of the Experience, but once the track is closed for good, they are expected to request more on-track time from Daytona International Speedway. A Petty spokesman said earlier this year that he hoped they could find another location for the exotic driving experience, as it had become a particularly profitable part of the business.