Photo by Wesley Daniel / TheRacingExperts.Com
T.R.E. reporter Steven Ellis discusses why NASCAR is not merely a hobby, but a sport.
Disclaimer: All opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
By Steven Ellis
I recently had the same conversation every racing fan has with non-fans of the action packed drama we like to call stock car racing: Why NASCAR is in fact a sport. How do you explain to the incoherent average Joe that racing around an oval for hours and hours is in fact a physically draining activity and not just another drive to the mall. 'Cause you know, we all drive 200+ MPH starting at the age of 8, right?
It can't be hard. For four hours straight, you see Dale Earnhardt Jr. sitting comfortably in a snug looking cockpit, turning left 4 times a lap. Anyone can do that.
Let's set the bar straight early. NASCAR is a sport. According to , a sport is “An athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, such as racing, baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc.” With an exception of John Wes Townley, you will never see an accomplished owner such as Rick Hendrick or Roger Penske walking down the street hiring people to race their $500,000 finely tuned race cars. Why spend that much money on a specially designed sports car when you can just go out and buy a Ford Focus and race that around for a few hours instead?
People believe that just because they can drive a street version of a Toyota Camry that they can race a racing version of a Toyota Camry. First, the cars are not built like and don’t drive like street-legal cars. They can barely drive straight, can’t turn correctly, and need intense maintenance every hour or so (if this applies to you, you may need to search for a new car). The Sprint Cup cars reach upwards of 200MPH with its 850HP, and unless your Camry has a jet engine, you may have a problem achieving these speeds. At least you get the comforts of air-conditioning, power windows and doors, unlike Mr. Kyle Busch sitting in his 100 º F machine.
As well as fighting a bull that doesn't like the idea of turning, one of the biggest obstacles that drivers face is the amount of G-Force that crush the body over four hours. G-Force is affected by two variables, the speed of the car and the sharpness of the corner. For example, Denny Hamlin will face over 3G's of force at NASCAR's smallest track, Bristol Motor Speedway. To put that in perspective, Hamlin, at 155 pounds, will feel more like 500 pounds every single time he turns his car during the race, for a total of 2000 turns during 500 laps.Most major roller coasters will have its riders exert about 3G's of force for about three seconds. Try a whole afternoon. A human being must be in impeccable shape to withstand such force for a long period of time. But, of course, everyone does that on their daily commute to work.
I understand that watching cars turn left for four hours can't be what an average person considers exciting on a Sunday afternoon, but the truth is, turning left and right isn't much better. F1, one of the most prestigious racing organizations in the world, averages 623 passes per season, while NASCAR averages 28 passes for the lead ALONE per race. Turning in both directions doesn't necessarily create exciting racing. The Daytona 500 and Indy 500 aren't huge events because they create boring racing. Another misconception is that NASCAR only races in circles. Well, my friend, time to go back to Kindergarten. There is a grand total of 0 circle shaped tracks in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, as that would be almost impossible for a driver to withstand multiple hours of constant turning. They instead race on multiple shapes, such as ovals, triangles and rectangles, as well as its share of road courses. While there are only two roadies on the Sprint Cup circuit, it’s for good reason. 3500 pound stock cars don't turn as well as Indy cars, so making left and right turns right after each other isn't exactly an easy task.
Maybe it's just that motor sports fans can analyze a sport better than most, but before you claim that NASCAR is not a sport, it’s time to get your facts straight. It contains more physical and mental strain any person should endure during everyday life. There is a reason guys like Carl Edwards and Mark Martin stay in peak physical shape every single year to be at the top of their game. I challenge all you non-believers to get into a half a million dollar race car and race 325 laps at Texas Motor Speedway at 200MPH and see how you make out. Even the best of the best have trouble racing in North America's top racing circuit. If you, with no experience, can handle this challenge, I’ll admit that NASCAR doesn't take talent. But in reality, you would likely perish before you prove me wrong.
Only the best athletes can race in NASCAR.