The cultures of 16th century William Shakespeare and 21st century NASCAR NEXTEL Cup stock car racing came together Monday when members of the London-based Royal Shakespeare Company visited Lowe¿s Motor Speedway.

While at nearby Davidson College, members of the Royal Shakespeare Company, one of the best-known theatre groups in the world, wanted to experience local culture. That¿s why they visited Lowe¿s Motor Speedway where members road around the 1.5-mile superspeedway at nearly 150 mph in Richard Petty Driving Experience stock cars.

¿To use an American word to describe an American experience¿that was awesome,¿ said Zubin Varla, of London, who plays Brutus in ¿Julius Caesar.¿ ¿My heart has never beaten that fast. We were so close to the wall I really thought we were going to crash. But to be honest, I loved every minute of it.¿

¿The fastest I had ever gone in a car was 100 mph. Now after this, that feels like 50 mph,¿ said Steve Mayo, of Manchester, England, one of the company¿s sound engineers. ¿I never knew you could actually ride in a real race car. After riding in that car, I want to change professions and be a race car driver.¿

¿That made me feel like Daisy from the ¿Dukes of Hazzard,¿¿ said Gemma Fairlie, of London, who is the assistant director of ¿The Two Gentlemen of Verona.¿ ¿That was one of the most fun things I have ever done. I wanted to go even faster and race the other cars we were riding around with.¿

¿I can¿t even explain it,¿ said Denise Furey, of Ireland, an assistant stage manager. ¿I was worried we were going to bump into the car ahead of us. Then, the driver took one hand off the wheel and I yelled at him to keep both hands on the wheel!¿

The thespians also drove Legends Cars and Thunder Roadsters on a one-fifth-mile oval, courtesy of The Speedway Club Driving School.

¿In England, we tend to keep our foot on the clutch, but in this car it was so touchy,¿ Gary Oliver, who plays Mark Anthony in ¿Julius¿ Caesar¿ and Eglamour in ¿The Two Gentlemen of Verona,¿ said about his time behind the wheel of a Legends Car. ¿That was exhilarating! I have a new found respect for the guys who race with 43 cars on the track.¿

About 65 actors, educators and technicians from the Royal Shakespeare Company are in residency at Davidson College through March 20. They will present seven performances of ¿The Two Gentlemen of Verona¿ and ¿Julius Caesar¿ at the Duke Family Performance Hall in addition to hosting an extensive series of educational events.

Call (704) 894-2135 for performance dates and ticket information.

Tickets for all May races at Lowe¿s Motor Speedway, including the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge on Saturday night, May 21, and the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday evening, May 29, are available by visiting www.charlottemotorspeedway.com or calling the track ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS.