Is NASCAR Considered a Sport?

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Is Nascar Really a Sport?

For years, there has been a debate about whether or not NASCAR is a sport. Some people believe that it is just a bunch of drivers driving around in circles and that it is not really that challenging. However, others argue that it is a very difficult and demanding sport that takes a lot of skill.

So, which side is right? Well, to answer that question, we need to look at what defines a sport.

Does NASCAR Meet The Definition Of A Sport?

As for those that say NASCAR doesn’t meet the definition of “sport,” that’s hogwash. Those that genuinely understand NASCAR know this to be the case. The basic definition offered by Wikipedia is that a sport is “an activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively.” It is governed by rules written up by a sanctioned body and is constantly engaged in competitively. Using this definition alone, NASCAR must be a sport.

While not as clearly defined and noticed by the average person, NASCAR has an offense and defense, much like other team sports such as basketball, hockey, soccer, football, and baseball. The strategy is seen the most in NASCAR during the late stages of the race, in the final few laps where one driver is attempting to hold off another, or another is trying to overtake another to earn the victory.

Yes, I know that some people dislike the argument using offense and defense; after all, where is there really a defense in golf? How about bowling? Both of those are sports, in my opinion.

Here’s another way to think about what constitutes an activity to be a sport:

1 – There must be competition against other individuals or teams.

2 – Physical training and skill must perform at the highest level.

3 – Need to have a combination of some or all of hand-eye coordination, strength, speed, quickness, mental acuity, coordination, flexibility, and stamina.

4- Physical exertion beyond that of just walking or sitting.

Arguments Against NASCAR Being A Sport

First, I understand why many people say that NASCAR isn’t a sport. People see driving a car as something millions do daily, to and from work, vacations, taking kids to sports practices, etc. They fail to consider that competitive driving isn’t easy. Instead, they think it’s unathletic.

Naysayers see this as a ho-hum event, mocking it as a sport by saying you sit and watch cars going around, around, and around some more until it finally ends with someone crossing the finish line. They will even say that the spectators in the stands put in more physical activity than the drivers, who are supposedly the “athletes.”

While those against the notion that NASCAR is a sport go to the dictionary and quote from Merriam-Webster that a sport is “a source of diversion; physical activity engaged for pleasure.” This is a bit of an antiquated definition; a better version from online dictionaries would be that a sport is “an active diversion requiring physical exertion and competition.”  

More Mental Than Physical?

Again, the naysayers will argue that NASCAR is more mental activity than physical. They only need to be in good enough physical condition to sit in the car and not die behind the wheel due to poor cardiovascular health. Driving at high speeds isn’t impressive, and anyone can drive around a track a couple of hundred times.

They argue that people routinely drive comfortably on a highway at around 60 to 80 mph. Put the car into gear, push the pedal, steer, and it’s an easy payday. There’s nothing athletic about any of this, quote the naysayers.

Funding A Racing Team

Another argument is that those who win don’t come down to incredible skill but to who has enough money to fund a racing team. They claim that families such as the Petty, Waltrip, Earnhardt, and Labonte, to name a few, aren’t genetically more capable of driving a car better than the rest of the world.

They claim that NASCAR is a private entity run by wealthy men. After all, corporate sponsors are seen all over the cars, driver’s attire, and around the track. In the end, naysayers say that NASCAR is a very far reach into the sports world and shouldn’t be televised on networks such as ESPN, which should cover only “real” sports.

Arguments For NASCAR Being A Sport

Those in favor of NASCAR being a sport are fed up with their necks about how people think drivers are not athletes. The idea that NASCAR stock cars are the same as the cars the average person drives at home is ridiculous. 

If you look at any Sprint Cup Series garage, it will take about a half-second to realize that the cars are much different. For one, they are aerodynamically superior, heavier, more expensive, and can go much faster.

Imagine many cars on a large track going 190 miles per hour. This speed isn’t just a straightaway speed but must be maintained, turning around a radius of nearly 750 feet.

When a driver turns at such speeds, he is hit with G-force, where one G is 32 feet per second. For those that don’t know what G is, it’s the Earth’s gravity and is a way to represent acceleration.

Intense G-Force

Doing a little research on HowStuffWorks.com, drivers encounter about 3.2 G of the force around turns, based on a G-force equation. It must be noted that factoring in the degrees of banking, the number of actual G’s a driver experiences is significantly less, more in the 1.5 G to 2 G ballpark. 

Comparing this to a space shuttle, there is a three G force on the passengers upon takeoff. What does this even mean to the average person? Roller coasters exert about 3 G’s on the rider, but this is only for a couple of seconds. Although the number of G’s is less on drivers, the ability to withstand and push back that much force over three hours is NOT just sitting and casually driving and making left turns. To withstand that kind of force, a person must have an athlete’s body. 

Pit Crews

Don’t forget about those in the pit crews too. Did you know that many retired athletes from other sports are on pit crews? Pit crews train religiously to get their bodies in good enough shape to jack up a car that weighs 1.7 tons, change tires, and add nearly 200 pounds of fuel, all in about 15 seconds. It’s honestly incredible what they are able to do.

Conclusion

After looking at both arguments. Yes, NASCAR is absolutely a sport. The physical demands of driving 400 laps at high speeds for three hours are enough to classify it as a sport. But there’s more to it than that.

The mental discipline and strategizing needed to race well rivals that of any other professional sport. Add in the fact that NASCAR drivers are some of the best athletes in the world, and it’s easy to see why many consider it a sport.