As the race cars set up at the starting line, each and every driver feels the adrenaline rush of waiting for the green flag to wave. As the awaited moment finally comes, the cars speed off like 4-year-olds after an ice cream truck. The crowd screams as their favorite car takes off. NASCAR is fun to watch, but is this activity really a sport?
Some believe that just putting your foot down on a pedal doesn’t have what it takes to be a sport, compared to bone-crunching football, in which men with muscles the size of watermelons smash through defenders. If you think about it though, it’s kind of true. Almost everybody can drive at age 16, so what’s the big difference?
The technical definition of a sport is: An athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature. Athletic is the key word. Pushing down on a pedal seems easy, but it could obviously become hard after 75 laps or so. You also need quick instincts to turn when a crash has occurred on the track. These types of cars can reach speeds up to 190 miles per hour, so the drivers would definitely need to be on the edge of their seats!
Being a NASCAR driver would undoubtedly take a great amount of skill. The Daytona 500 consists of 200 laps, which equal 500 miles. The driver also must be aware if he or she has tire issues, is running out of gas, and know when to safely make a pit stop to refuel or change tires.
Lots of people think that NASCAR really is a sport. I had the chance to speak to Mike Massaro, an ESPN NASCAR analyst, about this. As a kid, Mike was exposed to racing because his dad worked on a racecar as a hobby at Stafford Springs Motor Speedway in Connecticut. “I’ve been around it since I was a child,” he told me. “I have a photo on my desk… of me at 8 years old sitting inside the car my dad worked on.”
“It’s not just the drivers working,” Massaro says. “It’s a team sport. The men who jump over the walls need to be very accomplished athletes themselves. They carry tires [that weigh] up to 80 pounds!” He also commented on how fit drivers need to be. He told me that NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson was actually named the 2009 Male Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press, over Tiger Woods, Albert Pujols, and even Kobe Bryant!
Johnson has worked out over the years, and it has been paying off. He does pull-ups with an extra one hundred pounds chained to him. He even runs six-minute miles! Some athletes don’t keep themselves in the best shape (such as baseball greats CC Sabathia and Prince Fielder). Johnson sets an example how fit NASCAR drivers can really be.
Auto racing being considered a sport is one of the most argued questions of all time. Many think yes, many no. I’m still not sure. What do you think?