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  • 02/01/2012, 11:18AM ET

Are race car drivers athletes - A layman's perspective

J-Business (78-66-19) vs BM. (65-17-11)
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I drive a car, as do most adults

But can a race car driver be considered an athlete?

From a layman's point of view, driving a car is a fairly basic routine
You can send text messages while you drive
You can eat a meal while you drive
I've seen woman doing their nails while they drive

However, can you drive a car 300 miles per hour while doing those activities, without killing yourself?

Personally, I think you have to be in at least decent shape to handle a car at those speeds and turns
You don't have to be in Olympic shape but I think it'd be quite difficult to handle the car and it's functions if you were overweight and in poor health

I'm sure race car drivers exercise regularly and make sure their arms and wrists are strong to handle the wheel
I would also imagine that they regularly jog and work out their legs so that they don't cramp

Also, if a normal person has to drive for a long distance, they normally pull over and take a breather
Race car drivers **** up and keep going

There's also the heat and fumes in the car which make it difficult

So while they may not be typical athletes, I'd say they are professional athletes


I'm not a NASCAR hater, for the record. I enjoy NASCAR.

BUT

Being "in decent shape" and being "an athlete" are two entirely different things.

I will simply compare NASCAR drivers to athletes of the other big 4 sports in order to prove my point.

Baseball - Speed, agility, quickness, extremely good hand-eye-coordination, etc...

Football - Speed, agility, quickness, POWER, toughness, jumping ability, fast feet, etc...

Hockey - Speed, agility, quickness, hitting power, toughness, fast feet, excellent endurance, great vision, etc...

Basketball - Jumping ability, fast feet, quickness, speed, agility, evasive ability, great vision, great hand-eye-coordination, etc...

Now on to NASCAR. They need endurance for sure. But really, what else is there? They don't need to be fast on their feet, they don't need to be agile or tough. They don't have to jump, get hit, or have good hand-eye coordination. They just need to be able to drive a car effectively for 2+ hours.

A pro athlete, to me, is someone who can use their skills to play just about sport with a bit of effectiveness. Athletes play sports that require those physical attributes.


A regular person can:
Throw a ball
Kick a ball
Get on ice and hit a puck
Throw a ball to the hoop

But it takes someone in good physical shape and also one who has been practicing it for years, to do this skill and get paid for it

The same thing exists for car racing
It's not just 2+ hours
It's more like 4+ hours

The 500 in the Daytona 500 stands for 500 miles
How many normal everyday people can drive a car at 300 miles an hour for those distances and do it competitively?
Not many and if they did, they'd be professionals

You said "they don't have to...get hit, or have good hand-eye coordination"
So you're saying that they don't have to avoid other cars, pass other cars and keep focused for 4 straight hours?

A pro athlete is someone who can perform a physical skill at a high level and get paid for it. This is what race car drivers do

The car is only part of the function. Having the ability to control the vehicle takes a lot of skill and part of it involves their physical strength

Professional race car drivers are paid good money
If it was so easy, everybody would do it

You have to respect their skill


First of all, no car in NASCAR goes 300 miles per hour. These guys average about 185 miles per hour in a race.

And on road courses they average about 85 miles per hour.

Yes, it absolutely takes a guy in decent shape to be a pro NASCAR driver. That's true. That doesn't make him an athlete. The act of avoiding other cars and passing other cars is done simply by letting off the gas/stepping on the gas, and turning the steering wheel slightly. How is that athletic? The drivers are alert at all times. That's true. But in order to avoid an accident, the average driver on the average highway has to do the exact same things.

The fact that these guys do it at a higher speed doesn't make them athletes.

Yes, an athlete performs a physical skill and gets paid for it. Driving a car isn't a physical skill. Based on that, every UPS driver is an athlete. My grandmother is an athlete. Hell, paraplegics can still driver cars.

"The car is only part of the function."

No, the car is MOST of the function. The driver is just operating it. Some drivers are more skilled than others, but that doesn't make them more athletic.

I respect their skill, but they aren't athletes.


In regards to me saying "300 miles per hour", my fault, I was thinking in km's per hour

With that being said, there are different skill sets for different sports

A professional race car driver has to be able to handle a car at high speeds, get past competitors and do this for 4 hours straight.

A baseball pitcher stands on the mound and throws the ball
In rare instances the ball comes to him or he covers first base, but generally he just stands there and throws the ball
If he's in the American League, he will never bat

A kicker/punter in football kicks the ball and is discouraged from trying to tackle
The long snapper is only in the game for punts
Their on the field time is about 4 minutes a game

They are all athletes
Maybe not as much as other players but they are still athletes

A lay person can't pick up Tiger Wood's club and win the Masters nor can someone off the street get in Tony Stewart's car and challenge for the Daytona 500

It takes years of practice and honing their skills to be a professional race car driver

Their superior mental and physical skills in handling the car is what makes them professional athletes


"With that being said, there are different skill sets for different sports"

That is absolutely true. Nobody ever disputed that.

You go on to describe the players of other sports and what they do in their respective roles. That's all well and good, but it doesn't mean that people driving cars are athletes.

How does driving a car compare to the following as far as athleticism is concerned:

1. Out-muscleing a 350 pound lineman to get to the opposing quarterback.

2. Sprinting through the outfield and making a leaping catch to rob a homerun.

3. Going coast-to-coast through all the defenders and scoring a highlight-reel goal in a hockey game.

4. Making a leaping dunk over a 6 foot 8 defender in a basketball game.

Those are all things that happen in the big 4 sports on a regular basis. They require strictly PHYSICAL attributes that NASCAR drivers couldn't dream of having. These are the types of plays that make an athlete and athlete.

A guy driving a car and shifting gears just doesn't cut it for me. I love NASCAR and what those guys do is amazing, but they are not athletes.

Good TD J-Biz.

February 1, 2012  11:33 AM ET

Based on DC traffic, I don't think 90% of the population can drive effectively at 40 mph.

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February 1, 2012  11:53 AM ET

you really think a race car driver doesn't need good eye hand coordination? Their LIFE depends on their reflexes, great vision, endurance and eye hand coordination. If CC Sabathia is an athlete, which you clearly say here he is, then every NASCAR driver is also.

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February 1, 2012  12:16 PM ET

Sorry J-biz, had to vote against. BM did not fully grasp some aspects either. Drivers need hand eye coordination for shifting, steering, flipping the bird, etc. They need to hit brakes, push pedal to the metal, just not at 300 mph. I have driven at speeds of 140+ and I am no athelete. I do not believe that race car drivers are atheletes either in the sports sense. As BM stated for typical sports atheletes, yes drivers do not need most of those abilities. I will not however take away drivers endurance necessary to finish a race. Drivers need 2 things:
1. Hand eye coordination
2. Endurance, hence Mark Martin's past sponser in Viagra made complete sense.

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February 1, 2012  12:30 PM ET

Atheletic means to train physically for game at hand. Racing is not a game, it is an adventure!

February 1, 2012  12:40 PM ET

I just look at it very simply. Changing the condition doesn't change where a race driver finishes in a race. Changing the car does. Tony Stewart was fat and winning.

Therefore, the car is more of an athlete than the driver.

Yes, it's simplistic, but I really can't see a way how the driver is the athlete in the equation.

February 1, 2012  12:50 PM ET

I see more fat out of shape people on a baseball field than I ever see coming out of a race car.

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February 1, 2012  12:51 PM ET
QUOTE(#11):

I see more fat out of shape people on a baseball field than I ever see coming out of a race car.

Is baseball a sport or a game? Answer, please, according to your comment.

February 1, 2012  12:52 PM ET
QUOTE(#10):

I just look at it very simply. Changing the condition doesn't change where a race driver finishes in a race. Changing the car does. Tony Stewart was fat and winning.Therefore, the car is more of an athlete than the driver.Yes, it's simplistic, but I really can't see a way how the driver is the athlete in the equation.

Actually the conditioning of the driver is paramount to how the car runs. These cars are comfort rides. They don't have power steering and AC. If it doesn't make the car go faster than it isn't there. To keep your mind focused and the car steady you have to be as physically fit than most baseball players.

February 1, 2012  12:54 PM ET
QUOTE(#13):

Is baseball a sport or a game? Answer, please, according to your comment.

Baseball is sport and so is car racing. I am not really a fan of either but I am also not one of those that says something isn't a sport just because I don't like it.

I drive my car and so does anyone else but my drive to work is about as much like NASCAR as 10 year old riding his bike is to Tour De France. Just because you do something on a low level doesn't discredit those who do it at the highest. I shoot baskets on the weekend too, doesn't mean I can compete vs Kobe.

February 1, 2012  12:54 PM ET

Yes, they are athletes but car racing is not much of a sport.

February 1, 2012  01:02 PM ET
QUOTE(#15):

Baseball is sport and so is car racing. I am not really a fan of either but I am also not one of those that says something isn't a sport just because I don't like it.I drive my car and so does anyone else but my drive to work is about as much like NASCAR as 10 year old riding his bike is to Tour De France. Just because you do something on a low level doesn't discredit those who do it at the highest. I shoot baskets on the weekend too, doesn't mean I can compete vs Kobe.

I agree. I liked the comment on weight in baseball. Sports are what they are. Each has its on perimeters to play within. John Daly, golfer, smoker, drinker, athelete. I actually stood about 15 feet from one of his tee shots right after a looong puff on his cig during the Bay Hill a few years back. Hardest hit I have ever seen from a golfer and accurate. I watched Tom Watson, VJ Singh, Tiger Woods, and many others hit that day, no one came close to John's determination. I personally enjoy watching good competition between whomever, whenever, and where ever (mostly).

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February 1, 2012  01:43 PM ET
QUOTE(#14):

Actually the conditioning of the driver is paramount to how the car runs. These cars are comfort rides. They don't have power steering and AC. If it doesn't make the car go faster than it isn't there. To keep your mind focused and the car steady you have to be as physically fit than most baseball players.

At the same time, a race car driver couldn't hold a flame to a hockey player.

 
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