Kevin Connolly takes a ride in a race car ahead of the Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (WGHP) -- Kevin Connolly got a new appreciation for what NASCAR drivers experience when he took a ride in a race car at the Daytona International Speedway.

Connolly did three laps in the passenger seat around the 2.5-mile track, which hasn't changed since it opened in 1959.

"I was surprised at how smooth it was," Connolly said after the ride. "I'm not sure how fast we went, but man, it was awesome."

He estimated that the driver was going about 160 mph.  "I wanted him to go faster!" he said.

Race fans Donald and Joanne Martel also got a chance to ride. They said they enjoyed it and would do it again.

"We were pretty much alone on the track, and I can't imagine being a cluster of drivers, you know, going that fast and doing the things that they do," Donald Martel said. "It's awesome."

FOX8 is in Daytona for all the festivities leading up to, during and after the big race. For more of our coverage, click here.