Read the opposing arguments from Optimist Prime.
I must admit I was a late bloomer to the SPORT of NASCAR. I didn’t really start watching NASCAR till about 15 years ago, and I really didn’t take off with it until Dale Earnhardt, Sr. won his first and only Daytona 500 in 1998. I used to think, “This is so stupid. All they do is ride around in circles. Why would someone pay to watch this?” But then I took a closer look and realized how fascinating NASCAR was and that it really is a sport.
According to its website, NASCAR is number one spectator sport. It has more of the top 20 highest-attended sporting events in the U.S. NASCAR races are broadcast in more than 150 countries and in 20 languages. NASCAR fans are the most brand loyal in all of sports, and, as a result, more Fortune 500 companies participate in NASCAR than any other sport. The governing body sanctions over 1,200 races across 30 states, Canada, and Mexico. Obviously, there is some “competition” going on in this sport. In fact, the dictionary specifically defines “sport” as “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature.” That is the perfect definition for NASCAR, and it most certainly describes NASCAR drivers.
There’s definitely much more to NASCAR than getting into a car, putting the seat belt on, and seeing who can go around a two-mile oval the fastest. It’s not like going to your neighborhood go-kart track where all you have to do is push your foot down on the gas and hope you get one of the good cars, which I never seem to get. There are other things to consider, like tire wear, fuel mileage, drafting and horsepower in a motor. Countless tests are run to test the productivity of these factors. It’s not like everyone just shows up on the weekend to race. A crew of often hundreds work together to achieve one goal, and that’s to take the checkered flag before anyone else.
NASCAR is often called a “redneck” sport due to its deep Southern roots, and perhaps that’s a fair assessment due to its heritage. But it’s become a thinking man’s sport. Besides, four-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson is hardly a redneck. He was born and raised in California. In fact, Bleacher Fan labeled him the athlete of the year in 2009.
These drivers are athletes also, and they are in some kind of shape. It’s one thing to drive down the interstate in your family mini-van going 75 mph for three hours. That’s probably no big deal to you, right? Try going upwards of 200 mph with a fireproof jumpsuit, a helmet locked on your head, and your body squeezed into a race car that has very little wiggle room. The drivers love it and it’s obviously not too intolerable or they wouldn’t be doing it. But they actually do go through workout regiments to make it through the season. They also do this knowing one wrong move on the track could cause an accident, or even worse.
In NASCAR, the drivers compete in the regular season to gain position for the Chase for the Cup, which begins this Sunday in Loudon, New Hampshire. Ten drivers will compete in a ten-race format in order to win the Sprint Cup. If it’s a competition, then surely it’s a sport, right? In fact, the Chase format, through all of its tweaks, has been successful enough that the PGA Tour adopted a similar model for golf when it developed the FedEx Cup.
The easy answer is to say NASCAR is NOT a sport. But if you break it down, it really is a full-throttle competition in all aspects.