NASCAR drivers are often excluded from lists of athletes in the sports world. However, those who say that, most likely haven’t watched a NASCAR race or seen one in person.
This past Sunday’s Southern 500 was a prime example why NASCAR drivers are athletes. Drivers like Kasey Kahne and B.J. McLeod both took trips to the Darlington Raceway infield care center following the race.
Kahne laid on the pit wall shortly after climbing out of his race car from pure exhaustion and dehydration. While it may have been 91 degrees outside, it was 110+ degrees inside the race cars.
Conditioning is a big part of how a driver prepares for a race. As he was drenched in sweat and had his fire suit unzipped trying to cool off, Jeffrey Earnhardt took the time to talk to The Racing Experts about what drivers do to condition for a race.
“Pedialyte man, Pedialyte became my best friend a long time ago,” Earnhardt said. “I had to learn the hard way to hydrate your body and it’s tough man, we sweat a lot. You come to tracks like this (Darlington), you sweat all threw practice, sweat all threw the race. It’s really hard to replenish your body with the nutrients it needs and hydration it needs.
“It’s tough man, you see a lot of these guys ride bikes for seventy something miles. I don’t ride a bike but I do a lot of hiking and running around hunting. I guess we each got our own way of doing cardio and trying to stay in shape.”
Being a race car driver is more than just making left turns. There’s a lot that goes into it and a driver has to be in great physical condition. Some drivers will run the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in the same day.
That is 1,100 miles they are in a race car in 100+ degree temperatures. Imagine sitting in your personal vehicle in the middle of the summer with the windows rolled up and no air conditioning for 2 hours.
That is what drivers do almost every weekend, sometimes for four hours. Next time you watch a NASCAR race, think to yourself about what the drivers are going through inside the cars. You’ll find the sport is more than just making left turns.
So yes, NASCAR drivers are athletes.
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.