Some NASCAR Drivers Are Actually Athletic, Outside Of The Car

Are NASCAR Drivers Really Athletes? Some Of Them Are, At Least.

2/19/09 in NASCAR   |   Debi_L   |   11868 respect

We hear it over and over again. It doesn’t take an athlete to drive in NASCAR. It doesn’t take any skill to turn left and run around in little circles. Any fool can drive a race car.

Right.

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.
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2/20/09   |   derms33   |   17652 respect

chicachericola wrote:

You got pq'd for that? I'm a huge Tony fan and I can agree. I bet if you would even ask Tony himself, he'd admit he is round too lol! There is no denying the man isn't in the best of shape. It's a fact, not an insult.

I am the #6 Stewart fan...I can type what I want!  As far as PQ's go...I could care less.  There are quite a few peeps on here that do not care for me or my sense of humor.  (which means they have none)

2/20/09   |   chicachericola   |   2 respect

derms33 wrote:
Tony Stewart is a great athlete and he's in great shape.  ROUND is a shape

You got pq'd for that? I'm a huge Tony fan and I can agree. I bet if you would even ask Tony himself, he'd admit he is round too lol! There is no denying the man isn't in the best of shape. It's a fact, not an insult.

2/20/09   |   herbadyoyo

DigitalSquire wrote:
Taken from Dictionary.com:

sport
    (spôrt, spōrt)  Pronunciation Key 
n.  
    1. Physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively.
ath·lete     (āth'lēt')  Pronunciation Key 
n.   A person possessing the natural or acquired traits, such as strength, agility, and endurance, that are necessary for physical exercise or sports, especially those performed in competitive contexts.
By definition they are athletes.

looks like your profile picture has athletic sport written all over it , nice one, ya just can't help but notice.

2/20/09   |   DigitalSquire   |   1 respect

Taken from Dictionary.com:

sport
    (spôrt, spōrt)  Pronunciation Key 
n.  

    1. Physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively.
ath·lete     (āth'lēt')  Pronunciation Key 
n.   A person possessing the natural or acquired traits, such as strength, agility, and endurance, that are necessary for physical exercise or sports, especially those performed in competitive contexts.
By definition they are athletes.

2/19/09   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Bluekarma06 wrote:
seems most people know very little about Nascar. These guys are athletes. It DOES require strength and endurance..just like a marathon, which is merely running straight ahead for 3 hours? A couple of things you should know..first, the cars are NOT east to handle,,they DO NOT have power steering like the Indy cars. That is a main reason women ha vent taken it up on a consistent basis. Most drivers wedge the wheel with their forearm and elbow to steer it into a corner. Imagine doing that for 4 hours? Then imagine having to handle the car at 190 MPH while 42 other drivers are swerving right next to you and also there is the wall you try to avoid. Then you must make calculations of all kinds while going more than 3 times the legal freeway speed! In other words, just like the split second decisions made in Football, Basketball and Hockey, drivers in Nascar have to do all that with the constant thought of not crashing and dying! Tell me another sport where all of these elements are in play? And luge I already thought of!

Timeout. Where are you getting that IndyCars have power steering? The closest thing to it is the paddle shifters which seems like a better idea than having the driver take his hand off of the wheel 10-15 times a lap on road courses (on most of the ovals, the impact I would guess is negligible since the cars usually run flat out).

2/19/09   |   Chief_aka_James   |   3307 respect

chicachericola wrote:
NASCAR is an endurance sport. It is not easy to sit in a car for hours in boiling temperatures. There was one race Kasey Kahne's crew forgot to drill holes in his seat and he sat in boiling hot sweat for part of the race. The force their bodies feel, the impact of the wrecks...it's all endurance. Could Tony Stewart play a full quarter of the NFL? Doubtful. But could an NFL player easily take the conditions of the Coca Cola 600? I doubt that either. It's like comparing apples and oranges. If we really want to get into a sports debate, ESPN considered billards a sport and poker for that matter.

As far as the ESPN comment, see posts 16 and 17 above..

2/19/09   |   chicachericola   |   2 respect

Chief_aka_James wrote:
I wont bother telling you what other sports include that, but I will tell you other professions that go through the same harsh conditions that would never be considered a sport: oil rig crew members, lumberjack, miners, some forms of trucking, welder, ironworkers, firefighters, construction workers, etc.

None of those are considered sports, by anyone, but are physically grueling professions. Nascar driving is a physically grueling profession. Solely because of there being 43 drivers at the same time is the reason why anyone sees it as sport.

NASCAR is an endurance sport. It is not easy to sit in a car for hours in boiling temperatures. There was one race Kasey Kahne's crew forgot to drill holes in his seat and he sat in boiling hot sweat for part of the race. The force their bodies feel, the impact of the wrecks...it's all endurance. Could Tony Stewart play a full quarter of the NFL? Doubtful. But could an NFL player easily take the conditions of the Coca Cola 600? I doubt that either. It's like comparing apples and oranges. If we really want to get into a sports debate, ESPN considered billards a sport and poker for that matter.

2/19/09   |   Debi_L   |   11868 respect

Bluekarma06 wrote:
seems most people know very little about Nascar. These guys are athletes. It DOES require strength and endurance..just like a marathon, which is merely running straight ahead for 3 hours? A couple of things you should know..first, the cars are NOT east to handle,,they DO NOT have power steering like the Indy cars. That is a main reason women ha vent taken it up on a consistent basis. Most drivers wedge the wheel with their forearm and elbow to steer it into a corner. Imagine doing that for 4 hours? Then imagine having to handle the car at 190 MPH while 42 other drivers are swerving right next to you and also there is the wall you try to avoid. Then you must make calculations of all kinds while going more than 3 times the legal freeway speed! In other words, just like the split second decisions made in Football, Basketball and Hockey, drivers in Nascar have to do all that with the constant thought of not crashing and dying! Tell me another sport where all of these elements are in play? And luge I already thought of!

Well, I have been following NASCAR for over twenty years and I DO know a fair bit about it.  And you are incorrect when you say the cars don't have Power Steering, they do and have had since DiGard Racing developed it, I believe in the 1980's:

DiGard Racing perfected the use of power steering in NASCAR racecars, developed shock absorber technology that improved handling characteristics, and made a concerted effort to use aerodynamics to lessen drag while giving downforce, thus increasing overall speed.  (source DiGardRacing.com)

However, yes, as we have been saying it does take a physical toll on the drivers.  Mark Martin and Ricky Craven both had the Power Steering go out in their cars on a short track, I believe in 1995 - Mark continued the race but basically had to be pulled from the car at the end of the race.  Ricky parked his car as he wasn't able to continue driving it - he didn't have the strength.

2/19/09   |   Chief_aka_James   |   3307 respect

Bluekarma06 wrote:
seems most people know very little about Nascar. These guys are athletes. It DOES require strength and endurance..just like a marathon, which is merely running straight ahead for 3 hours? A couple of things you should know..first, the cars are NOT east to handle,,they DO NOT have power steering like the Indy cars. That is a main reason women ha vent taken it up on a consistent basis. Most drivers wedge the wheel with their forearm and elbow to steer it into a corner. Imagine doing that for 4 hours? Then imagine having to handle the car at 190 MPH while 42 other drivers are swerving right next to you and also there is the wall you try to avoid. Then you must make calculations of all kinds while going more than 3 times the legal freeway speed! In other words, just like the split second decisions made in Football, Basketball and Hockey, drivers in Nascar have to do all that with the constant thought of not crashing and dying! Tell me another sport where all of these elements are in play? And luge I already thought of!

I wont bother telling you what other sports include that, but I will tell you other professions that go through the same harsh conditions that would never be considered a sport: oil rig crew members, lumberjack, miners, some forms of trucking, welder, ironworkers, firefighters, construction workers, etc.

None of those are considered sports, by anyone, but are physically grueling professions. Nascar driving is a physically grueling profession. Solely because of there being 43 drivers at the same time is the reason why anyone sees it as sport.

2/19/09   |   Debi_L   |   11868 respect

njstixx wrote:
DirectV offered The Hot Pass Package which included HD service....and (4) weekly Drivers which included team audio and 3-4 camera angles on specific drivers on their specific channel...

Not sure if was interest, which would be hard to believe,, as it's as popular as ever, especially in the NE US...but they didn't renew my package and I I wasn't billed...usuakky they give you the first week or two for free to preview....and then I found it was free all season...but some of the extras...team audi for example aren't included ( and I guess not available)...I was gonna pass this year, but am pretty happy as FOX delivers in HD and when the commercials come I can switch to a driver channel and continue to watch...

yep, that's exactly what our used to be as well.  I called this morning to find out why it wasn't on my guide - I had tried calling during speed weeks, only to be told it was a 2 hour wait to speak to someone, etc.  Today they told me it isn't being offered at all this year, due to low interest, plus the fact that (the worst sports channel on TV) TSN is offering all of the programming.

2/19/09   |   Bluekarma06

(Edited by Bluekarma06)

seems most people know very little about Nascar. These guys are athletes. It DOES require strength and endurance..just like a marathon, which is merely running straight ahead for 3 hours? A couple of things you should know..first, the cars are NOT east to handle,,they DO NOT have power steering like the Indy cars. That is a main reason women ha vent taken it up on a consistent basis. Most drivers wedge the wheel with their forearm and elbow to steer it into a corner. Imagine doing that for 4 hours? Then imagine having to handle the car at 190 MPH while 42 other drivers are swerving right next to you and also there is the wall you try to avoid. Then you must make calculations of all kinds while going more than 3 times the legal freeway speed! In other words, just like the split second decisions made in Football, Basketball and Hockey, drivers in Nascar have to do all that with the constant thought of not crashing and dying! Tell me another sport where all of these elements are in play? And luge I already thought of!

2/19/09   |   njstixx

Debi_L wrote:
I live in Canada and have subscribed to HotPass thru Starchoice for that past while, but they have cancelled it - not offering it this year, due to "lack of interest" - it is the same as what is offered in the States on DirectTV

DirectV offered The Hot Pass Package which included HD service....and (4) weekly Drivers which included team audio and 3-4 camera angles on specific drivers on their specific channel...

Not sure if was interest, which would be hard to believe,, as it's as popular as ever, especially in the NE US...but they didn't renew my package and I I wasn't billed...usuakky they give you the first week or two for free to preview....and then I found it was free all season...but some of the extras...team audi for example aren't included ( and I guess not available)...I was gonna pass this year, but am pretty happy as FOX delivers in HD and when the commercials come I can switch to a driver channel and continue to watch...

2/19/09   |   Chief_aka_James   |   3307 respect

Debi_L wrote:
Regardless of whether YOU consider it a sport, James, it does take strength and endurance to sit in car for that length of time, constantly paying attention to everything around you and as cpease states, slowing down to ZERO mph in the pits for 13 seconds, then back up to 180 mph as quickly as you can.  It isn't like driving on the freeway on cruise control for 4 hours.  Not every driver is a great college or high school athlete, but that doesn't mean they can be in no shape at all - they won't have any chance of winning.

"it does take strength and endurance to sit in car for that length of time, constantly paying attention to everything around you and as cpease states, slowing down to ZERO mph in the pits for 13 seconds, then back up to 180 mph as quickly as you can."

I never went totally against these drivers going through strength and endurance, I do understand it is hard work, but I also look at many other professions throughout this world that could very well need even more strength and endurance to be successful, and will never get the same sort of recognition. I think Nascar is a profession that takes a lot of hard work, physical and mental, and I know it is something I would never want to do to earn money.

One thing that no one has mentioned yet, and I'll just supply it for the other side of the discussion - do you only consider Nascar a sport because it's competition?

2/19/09   |   Chief_aka_James   |   3307 respect

MrNFL wrote:
Yeah, but it's sad when they show that crap so much when they could be showing a sporting event.

It's funny though that ESPN has now become more about making the news than just reporting it.  And sad.

(BTW, I didn't give that PQ)

I've gotten a PQ on about every post..I've had a stalker for a few days, but I have a feeling this person is different then the past few days.

It happens, whatever.

And i do agree that it is sad that they show "crap" and not sports 24/7 like it seemingly used to be, but because of the popularity of poker over the past few years, it is understandable why they still air it almost daily.

2/19/09   |   Debi_L   |   11868 respect

njstixx wrote:
NASCAR today id very different, while I'm not expecting a steroid scandal these guys truly are athletes geared towards the 21st century....Endurance alone...my god...The great camera work in recent years shows the abuse (not to mention the mental concentration) that the drivers undergo in each race...has to be mentally and physically draining....I saw Hot pass mentioned somewhere here and DirectV id offering it free all season without all the bells and whistles of the past pay package....

I live in Canada and have subscribed to HotPass thru Starchoice for that past while, but they have cancelled it - not offering it this year, due to "lack of interest" - it is the same as what is offered in the States on DirectTV

2/19/09   |   Chief_aka_James   |   3307 respect

gibbsracefan wrote:
I never said that NASCAR was the only sport. There are many sports out there. Think about the heat of them cars and all the equipment they have on. I think you just want to argue. Well, it that is what you want then I suppose we can argue this all day!

I have one opinion, and you have the opposite. I merely questioned what your definition of an athlete/sport is to understand your opinion a little better. I'm not looking for an argument, but the reasons you've given are pretty laughable so far.

Go four hours without going to the bathroom? Going through pain and being sore at work? Being in a hot place and being surrounded by equipment?

2/19/09   |   MrNFL   |   175 respect

Chief_aka_James wrote:
Entertainment & Sports Programming Network

Contrary to popular belief, not everything on ESPN has to be sports...

Yeah, but it's sad when they show that crap so much when they could be showing a sporting event.

It's funny though that ESPN has now become more about making the news than just reporting it.  And sad.

(BTW, I didn't give that PQ)

2/19/09   |   njstixx

NASCAR today id very different, while I'm not expecting a steroid scandal these guys truly are athletes geared towards the 21st century....Endurance alone...my god...The great camera work in recent years shows the abuse (not to mention the mental concentration) that the drivers undergo in each race...has to be mentally and physically draining....I saw Hot pass mentioned somewhere here and DirectV id offering it free all season without all the bells and whistles of the past pay package....

2/19/09   |   Debi_L   |   11868 respect

Chief_aka_James wrote:
Entertainment & Sports Programming Network

Contrary to popular belief, not everything on ESPN has to be sports...

Regardless of whether YOU consider it a sport, James, it does take strength and endurance to sit in car for that length of time, constantly paying attention to everything around you and as cpease states, slowing down to ZERO mph in the pits for 13 seconds, then back up to 180 mph as quickly as you can.  It isn't like driving on the freeway on cruise control for 4 hours.  Not every driver is a great college or high school athlete, but that doesn't mean they can be in no shape at all - they won't have any chance of winning.

2/19/09   |   gibbsracefan

Chief_aka_James wrote:
So...putting yourself through pain and being sore by the end of it is your definition of being an athlete? I can think of hundreds of other professions that can fit under that category that nobody would consider an athlete..

I never said that NASCAR was the only sport. There are many sports out there. Think about the heat of them cars and all the equipment they have on. I think you just want to argue. Well, it that is what you want then I suppose we can argue this all day!

2/19/09   |   Chief_aka_James   |   3307 respect

MrNFL wrote:
There is one thing we can all agree on, Poker is NOT a sport.  Silly ESPN.

Entertainment & Sports Programming Network

Contrary to popular belief, not everything on ESPN has to be sports...

2/19/09   |   MrNFL   |   175 respect

There is one thing we can all agree on, Poker is NOT a sport.  Silly ESPN.

2/19/09   |   Chief_aka_James   |   3307 respect

gibbsracefan wrote:
No that was not the total point. Have you ever sat in a car for 4 hours at a time? Try stirring the car to the left at speeds of at least 150 mph for that long. Then try to make a pit stop with out making any mistakes. I take it you have never driven a race car. Well, I have and it is very hard work. Every bone in your body hurts when you are done. Try takeing a hit into the wall at those speeds but yet they come back and do it the next week even if they are still sore.

So...putting yourself through pain and being sore by the end of it is your definition of being an athlete? I can think of hundreds of other professions that can fit under that category that nobody would consider an athlete..

2/19/09   |   gibbsracefan

Chief_aka_James wrote:
Are you really going to say that one of the reasons why Nascar is a sport is because they don't stop to go to the bathroom while driving? If so, I'm an absolute athletic freak..

If that wasn't the point of your post, then I'm not really understanding any point at all..

No that was not the total point. Have you ever sat in a car for 4 hours at a time? Try stirring the car to the left at speeds of at least 150 mph for that long. Then try to make a pit stop with out making any mistakes. I take it you have never driven a race car. Well, I have and it is very hard work. Every bone in your body hurts when you are done. Try takeing a hit into the wall at those speeds but yet they come back and do it the next week even if they are still sore.

2/19/09   |   Chief_aka_James   |   3307 respect

gibbsracefan wrote:
NASCAR is a Sport and  you do have to be in good shape to drive at 180 mph in a car for 4 hours at a time. I bet most of you at least go to the bathroom once in 4 hours.

Are you really going to say that one of the reasons why Nascar is a sport is because they don't stop to go to the bathroom while driving? If so, I'm an absolute athletic freak..

If that wasn't the point of your post, then I'm not really understanding any point at all..

2/19/09   |   gibbsracefan

NASCAR is a Sport and  you do have to be in good shape to drive at 180 mph in a car for 4 hours at a time. I bet most of you at least go to the bathroom once in 4 hours.

2/19/09   |   herbadyoyo

yepper ,it does not take an athlete to drive a nascar, but they still need to be in good shape.

2/19/09   |   Raven73   |   103 respect

Baseball sux? Life just ain't fair, huh?

2/19/09   |   Raven73   |   103 respect

Ya gotta love Hotpass! What did I do all those years without it?

2/19/09   |   Debi_L   |   11868 respect

It's okay James, not trying to CHANGE anyone's mind, just taking the opportunity to point out that general comments that NASCAR drivers aren't athletes aren't fair.  One can make comments that Basketball sux, based on one boring game, but that isn't fair either, right? 

Thank you for the kudos Rheda, I really enjoy it, and I like to give people something to think about!!

And yes, I wouldn't have wante to have been the FIRST agent I spoke to this morning - the manager is a NASCAR fan though and was a little more understandiing of my frustration - I actually ended up telling him about the Q!

2/19/09   |   Chief_aka_James   |   3307 respect

I'm actually surprised Debi made it through this...I figured I'd see a "F*** YOU STARCHOICE, GIVE ME MY HOTPASS BACK", somewhere in there..

2/19/09   |   Raven73   |   103 respect

Not attempting to change any one's opinion. Just stopping in to give Kudos to Debi for taking the time to write (which isn't the easiest thing to do) and offer a point of view to start an intelligent conversation (or debate, as things often go here on the Q).
Here's to you my Canadian friend!

2/19/09   |   derms33   |   17652 respect

Tony Stewart is a great athlete and he's in great shape.  ROUND is a shape

2/19/09   |   Chief_aka_James   |   3307 respect

In all seriousness though, to use the other side of the argument and state that Nascar drivers are athletes too, it's hard to take the blog as evidence of that. You picked four-six drivers, that only supported your viewpoint, and conveniently didn't mention all the others that have the farthest thing from any workout schedule..I still don't consider racing, open wheel or Nascar, to be a sport...and doubt that opinion will change anytime soon.

2/19/09   |   Debi_L   |   11868 respect

Chief_aka_James wrote:
"It doesn’t take an athlete to drive in NASCAR. It doesn’t take any skill to turn left and run around in little circles. Any fool can drive a race car."

I know I have never said such words...ever. I did use the adjective "cute" little circles last week though.

You caught me....did you want me to quote you? I could have you know.....

2/19/09   |   Chief_aka_James   |   3307 respect

"It doesn’t take an athlete to drive in NASCAR. It doesn’t take any skill to turn left and run around in little circles. Any fool can drive a race car."

I know I have never said such words...ever. I did use the adjective "cute" little circles last week though.