There are lots of activities that are argued about all over the world concerning whether or not they can be called a sport. Golf, poker and darts are some examples of such activities, but NASCAR racing is one of the most hotly debated activities when it comes to defining it as a sport.
NASCAR is a sport by many definitions, as it involves physical exertion over a long period of time, with drivers racing to a set of rules in a competitive setting. The drivers need to be in good physical and mental shape, and there is a lot of skill involved in NASCAR too.
But before we go more in depth about the reasons behind NASCAR being a sport, and to what definitions of a sport it adheres, let’s consider why many people don’t think it is a sport at all. These reasons are just a few of the most common, but they can all be refuted.
Why Is The Question Asked So Often?
When people think of sports their mind might immediately jump to football or basketball, or any number of ball sports. They might instead think of athletics, swimming or cycling. These sports are often completed at world championship level, and they may feature in events like the Olympics. NASCAR is not often the first activity to come to people’s minds when they consider the word ‘sport’.
But just because NASCAR doesn’t feature at the Olympics or in other world events it shouldn’t be discounted as a sport. For example, squash and cricket are definitely sports, but they don’t feature at the Olympics at the time of writing. So why else might you not consider NASCAR a sport? Well, it also doesn’t really look like a traditional sport from the outside.
Take ball sports for example. A tennis player spends the majority of any match running around the court for all eyes to see, hitting the ball across the net. In basketball and football, the same kind of thing is happening, this time with teams actively trying to achieve a goal in some way or another by physically moving around on a court or field.
But in a NASCAR race you don’t really see the driver at all. You see the car, sure, but the driver doesn’t seem to be doing much in the way of physical activity. This is the same for most other motorsports, and it is easy for some people to jump at the argument of “They’re just driving their car round in circles for a couple of hours!”
But we will see in the next few sections why this is simply not the case. NASCAR is one of the most watched motorsports in the world, and so it is only fair to give it a full analysis to determine whether or not it really can be called a sport in the traditional sense.
The Competition Factor
Definition Of A Sport
If you simply Google the definition of a sport, you will get lots of different results from various dictionaries all outlining roughly the same thing. Sports need to have an element of competition, requirement for skill rather than luck in order to be successful in the sport, involve physical exertion in some way and they are often competed as a job or simply for entertainment (or both).
The competition aspect essentially requires the sport to be played to a defined set of rules, with the winners being those who achieve a certain goal while adhering to said rules. In the case of NASCAR, there is no doubt about there being an element of competition. There are three main NASCAR series that make up three separate competitions, with the Cup, Xfinity and Trucks Series.
There are clearly defined rules for each one, with the drivers and teams all working towards one goal in each race – crossing the finish line first – and one overarching goal over the course of the entire competition – becoming NASCAR Champion. So, the first box of being eligible as a sport is most definitely ticked by NASCAR.
The Skill Required
Skill vs Luck
The next element of being a sport involves the need for skill rather than luck. For example, playing the slot machines at the casino for hours on end couldn’t be considered a sport as it relies solely on luck, no matter how skilled the player thinks they are. But sports like hockey and tennis clearly require a lot of skill in order to beat your opponents.
Many people will not need to be convinced that NASCAR involves a lot of skill, but as we said in the first section there are many others that think NASCAR requires none at all. They think the drivers just take their cars round in circles. This is partly because many of those people hold driving licenses themselves, and they know how easy driving can be when you know how to do it.
Lots Of Skill Needed
But the reality is that NASCAR drivers are not just driving round in circles, as they are travelling at speeds close to 200mph and racing against 39 other almost equally skilled drivers. They need to be able to time moves with perfection, knowing when to go for an overtake and when to hang back, with the need for fast reactions being paramount.
At these kinds of speeds you can almost forget everything you were taught in drivers’ ed, as you need to be able to turn the steering wheel with extremely precise movements, taking care of who is around you at all times. You are driving so close to other cars trying to get a slip stream, before timing the overtake to perfection in order to progress through the pack of cars.
More Than Just Turning Left
The slightest mistakes can end in disaster. Thousands of car accidents happen every single year at a fraction of the speed of NASCAR racing, and so it is not hard to see just how skilled the drivers really are as take to the circuits. Never mind that, there are also road courses in the NASCAR calendar, which blow the idea of simply driving in a circle out of the water – more on that in this article.
Mental & Physical
The most commonly contested idea regarding NASCAR’s classification as a sport surrounds the physical exertion aspect. Many people once again use their own driving experience as evidence for NASCAR not involving any physical exertion. However, driving at 200mph clearly requires not only more skill, but more exertion both mentally and physically than driving to your local supermarket.
Drivers take the banks and turns of the NASCAR circuits at such high speeds that their bodies are put under a lot of g-force. This means they are feeling more than just the force of the earth on their bodies, and over the course of several hours that begins to really show. Drivers need to train extensively to be able to handle these forces week in, week out.
This often involves neck training, to build the muscles in the neck to be able to keep their head straight when it naturally wants to be pulled to the outside of the track during a race. The conditions inside the car are also highly undesirable, with the temperatures regularly reaching multiple times that of the outside temperatures.
The cars have no air conditioning, and so the drivers need to be able to withstand these harsh conditions, while also exerting a lot of force on the pedals and steering wheel in order to actually race, for over three hours sometimes. This means they need to condition themselves, and so strict training regiments are needed, some of which rival those of the world’s top athletes in other sports.
Entertainment & Employment
Finally, most definitions of a sport require the activity to provide entertainment or employment to those competing, and there is definitely no arguing in this case, as NASCAR does both. Not only do the drivers earn some very reasonable salaries, as there is a lot of money involved, but they provide a spectacle that attracts millions of fans and TV viewers every single year.
The races are exciting, fast-paced and offer some of the most famous moments in motorsport history. This is why so many people continue to attend the races and watch them on TV every year, and I’m sure you will have a hard time finding a NASCAR fan that doesn’t think what they are watching constitutes an entertaining sport.
NASCAR is definitely a sport, despite what many people first think when they see the races. The drivers need to be very fit in order to withstand the harsh conditions of a race, and they need to be very skilled in order to win the races. The competition follows strict rules and regulations, and the entertainment NASCAR provides secures it as one of the most popular sports in the world.