Are NASCAR Drivers professional athletes? Try Driving from Dallas to Atlanta without air conditioning on a hot summer day, and focusing on a high-speed turn in (literally) bumper to bumper traffic.
“Driving a race car is nothing like driving your family car. Today’s NASCAR driver has to be in peak shape to last through a race.
Two of the biggest problems facing a race car driver are the heat and the constant G forces from turning corners. The temperature inside a typical NASCAR cockpit is around 120 degrees on a hot summer day. It feels even hotter because the driver is wearing a fireproof suit from head to toe.
In a corner, a NASCAR driver experiences 2 to 3 Gs. A 200-pound driver feels like he weighs 600 pounds in a 3-G turn. Holding your head, arms and torso in position for hours at a time when you weigh 600 pounds takes strength – so NASCAR drivers spend time training in the weight room. Drivers work especially on muscles in the neck, shoulders, arms and torso so that they have the strength to work against the Gs. Drivers also work a great deal on stamina, because they have to be able to perform throughout a race that lasts three to four hours without rest.” HowStuffWorks
“It’s not uncommon for a driver to lose anywhere from 3 to 10 pounds after sweating during a single race. The driver is given a bottle of water during the pit stop.
While the pit crew performing a pit stop looks smooth and choreographed, the moves aren’t easy. Crews spend as much as one hour a day practicing pit stops at their shop with a pit crew coach who times and videotapes their stops and analyzes everyone’s technique. Crews lift weights usually with the help of a personal trainer at a gym set up in their race shop. Being in top physical shape allows them to lift tires with ease and to scramble around the car quickly. Everybody knows that the faster the pit stop [14 seconds], the better chance the driver has of moving toward the front–and to victory lane.” Mark Martin
As Danaca Patrick said in her National Press Club interview: “It must be 140 degrees in the car and feels like 200 degrees.”
Michael Waltrip said this in his 2011 book, In the Blink of an Eye, about a drivers checklist:
“To win, not only do you have to be fast, you also have to survive. One small mistake can mean instant disaster. And as you get yourself mentally and physically prepared, you have to have a checklist….”
Guess what the top three items are on the check list?
- Am I properly hydrated?
- Did I get plenty of sleep?
- Did I remember to go to the bathroom?
Of course, this is not only true of the Drivers but their pit crew too.
The next time you hear someone ask if NASCAR Drivers are professional athletes just consider what they do for a living!