The Is NASCAR A Sport Debate… Competition Makes NASCAR a Sport

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.

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6 Responses to The Is NASCAR A Sport Debate… Competition Makes NASCAR a Sport

  1. D. Land says:

    NASCAR is NOT a sport. Racing is a sport. Racing and boxing are the only two sports. Everything else is a game. The game of golf, the game of baseball, etc. NASCAR is a series; a series overtaken by greasy-handed steering wheel holders who spend more time practicing their pre-race and post-race interviews than turning wrenches. Twenty-plus years ago, before the Jimmie’s and Denny’s and Kyle’s (except for Kyle Petty) drivers, and they were drivers back then, were expected to participate in chassis setup, engine changes, and other mechanically-inclined procedures. They also new how to fight. Just ask Cale Yarborough or the Allison boys. Does anyone honestly believe that Logano kid would stand a chance against a young Dale Eanrhardt? Absolutely not. So why debate the merits of a SERIES when the participants are better served as Vaseline poster children. Does Vaseline sponsor anyone?

    • Bleacher Fan says:

      I agree with you on a lot of very good points, D. Land

      IMO, though, it is more like the square versus rectangle statement, in that all sports are games, but not all games are sports. Any time there are rules, competition, strategy, etc., the event becomes a game (even boxing and racing, to some extent).

      I would even contend that golf is a sport, just on the merits that it requires training, and the muscle control necessary to perfect and consistently repeat good golf swings requires serious athletic ability (maybe not raw physical strength, or conditioning, but ability nonetheless).

      But in an event like NASCAR, the competition takes place between machines, not people. Sure, people are required to control the machines, but it is the machines that do all the work.

      If two people raced remote control cars, would people consider that a sport? No! So why should NASCAR count as something different, just because the people driving the cars are sitting inside them, as opposed to on a picnic bench with a remote control?

      In principle, I would actually put NASCAR on the same playing field as rock’em sock’em robots. Both essentially require the same levels of human involvement, where people will physically manipulate machines in a competition to see which machine performs better. Sure, one does require more technical skill to master, but NASCAR takes effort, too (HEY-OH!!!!).

    • WOW UR AN IDIOT NASCAR IS RACING U DUMB THEY R RACING EACH OTHER FOR A WIN WOW GO BACK TO SCHOOL INSTEAD OF SITTING ON THE COMPPUTER ALL DAY BASICALLY TELLING UR SELF HOW DUMB U R U JJUST SAID NASCAR ISNT A SPORT RACING IS A SPORT NASCAR IS RACING

  2. Loyal Homer says:

    Thanks for the comment Mr. Land.

    That’s just the nature of the beast though. Every game or sport has changed to a certain extent. Some for the better. Some for the worse. The drivers today don’t grow up working in garages or working on cars or becoming mechanically sound. They are paid to drive a race car and they leave the rest to the experts. The drivers have sponsor and meet/greet obligations. As you indication, its so much more a sponsor driven sport than its ever been, especially in today’s day and time. Arguably, you could say that’s where NASCAR is losing some of its fans of yesteryear like yourself!

  3. Hootsieroll says:

    I used this topic in a persuasive speech for a class in college this week. I asked the class to post their opinion on this debate. I am curious to see if they will. I will admit, when I started out, I was convinced that NASCAR was not a sport, but as I did more research as to what makes a sport, I became a believer. It may be an unconventional sport, true, but it is a sport nonetheless.

  4. Jim says:

    Ok by the definition of sport in the dictionary everything could be considered a sport. Heck competitive knitting could be considered because it has competition, requires physical prowess over your hands, and it requires a knowledge to outwit your opponent. Competitive knitting doesn’t exist I don’t think? But nonetheless it could also be considered a sport. Perhaps it would best be settled if “sports” requiring cars, motorcycles, or in other words something not powered by the human should be called motor sports. It makes both sides happy even though I do not consider NASCAR to be a sport in anyway.

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