Some people think that NASCAR, or any style of racing for that matter, is not a sport. For anyone who has driven for more than a two-hour span, they know that driving takes a lot of physical stamina and attention.
What these athletes do, and yes they are athletes, is something few people can do just off a whim. They drive competitively for hours at a time, risking their lives in the process. Fifteen drivers have died in the last 40 years in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series alone. That number doesn’t include the many more deaths in other types of auto racing, such as the IRL and Formula 1 and also doesn’t include other categories of NASCAR. This makes NASCAR one of the deadliest sports in the world.
What these drivers do takes intense focus where every lap counts. You could lose a race because you fishtail slightly on lap 127 of a 400-lap race. This small fishtail could make you lose by .02 seconds. Every lap and every second matters.
Racing also isn’t only about the drivers, but also the pit crews. These guys can change four tires, fill a gas tank and make minor adjustments to a stock car in less than 25 seconds. Can anyone other than these pit crews do any of it in less than a minute? I know I can’t.
So for those of you who still think NASCAR or any other type of racing is not athletic, I encourage you to get in your car for three and a half to four hours and drive at a non-competitive atmosphere. Then imagine that there are more than 100,000 people watching you doing it, not including the millions of viewers on television who are also watching or every move you make where the slightest mistake could be the difference between winning the race or being in last because you wrecked your car. If you do it, head to Indy because you are a born stock car racer.
Many people sit in front of their TVs on a regular basis to watch what they consider to be the great sport, NASCAR. One problem though, NASCAR isn’t sport. NASCAR lacks several key elements that keep it from having a sports appeal including lack of athleticism and American acceptance as a sport.
First, lack of athleticism. Let’s look at the definition of a sport from the Princeton Dictionary: an active diversion requiring physical exertion and competition. Physical exertion- what does NASCAR have that is physical exerting? A driver sits in a car and puts his or her feet on the gas peddle. Wow, that sounds like a lot of work (sarcasm).
Many athletes spend hours and hours in the gym strength training for a competition, but drivers don’t need to do that because the competition doesn’t actually have any athletic demands. In fact, most of the work is actually done by the car and the team of mechanics who work on the car. So, maybe you could stretch that the car is having physical exertion but inanimate objects often don’t have sports.
I will give that NASCAR is a competition but it is really nothing more.
Second, America doesn’t even consider it a sport. Please think back to the last time you saw a sports-related commercial-what was it highlighting? Football players with sweat dripping down their faces or a baseball player hitting a homerun. Not a steaming engine turning a corner, because most of America would not consider NASCAR a sport.
I can’t think of a single high school or college that has a competitive racing team. They all focus on football, baseball, soccer, etc. as sports. And my high school had a stock car building competition as an academic club, not a sport.
When I start to see commercial ads by Nike and Gatorade highlighting the hard work and athleticism of NASCAR driver, I will take another look at NASCAR, but until then I am stuck thinking that the event is not by any means a sport.