Are NASCAR Drivers Really Athletes? Some Of Them Are, At Least.
Dale Jarrett was offered a full scholarship in Golf to the University of South Carolina, which as we all know, he declined. He excelled in team sports as well in High School, namely football, basketball and baseball. His prowess on the golf course has earned him a 17 handicap and the honor to have played with the likes of Phil Mickelson. He and other NASCAR drivers compete for charity each year in several events. Dale is an oftentimes winner of these events.
But nope, Dale Jarrett isn’t an athlete, he’s only a once-upon-a-time NASCAR driver.
Elliott Sadler actually attended James Madison University on a basketball scholarship. A knee injury ended that career and he moved into racing full time. However, he competed in 6 different sports in high school, including baseball and basketball. He was recruited by EIGHTEEN colleges and universities for his excellence in sports. Elliott continues to drive a race car, but acts as a hunting guide in the off season.
But he too, is not athlete. He only drives a race car.
Now here’s one that may be a surprise to many of you. Kyle Petty never intended as a teenager to become a race car driver. He, too, excelled in sports, namely football and basketball. He, too, was offered scholarships to many universities. However, Kyle competed in an ARCA race in 1979 in a refurbished Dodge Magnum provided by his dad, Richard. Kyle won that race, and abandoned thoughts of scholarships and university.
But again, no way Kyle is an athlete, now he doesn’t even drive the car, he just runs Victory Junction Gang Camp, a place for sick kids to be real kids again for a while.
Michael Waltrip may be on the verge of retiring as a driver. He’s a successful owner and just doesn’t seem to be as competitive in his car as he once was. Mind you a 7th place finish in the Daytona 500 is pretty darn good. If he retires, Mikey can always pursue a career as a marathon runner. He’s competed in the Boston Marathon and appears to be in the best shape of his life.
I think maybe you might be getting my point. Carl Edwards lists working out as one of his past times. He was noted for going on an extended mountain bike ride in the heat of Arizona last year before the Phoenix race. Mark Martin works out religiously and at 50 years of age, having just celebrated a birthday in January, claims his workout schedule has him in the best shape of his life.
Not all NASCAR drivers are stars in other sports, but almost all of them have workout schedules of some sort and as the sport becomes more and more competitive, more will follow.
Tipping a beer can after the race just isn’t enough any longer.