Do NASCAR Drivers Get Dizzy When Racing On Ovals?

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You may think NASCAR drivers get dizzy when racing on ovals, considering they may be turning left for up to 500 laps. Couple the number of times they are racing in tight circles at such high speeds, and it may logically make anyone dizzy, including the most well prepared NASCAR driver. 

NASCAR drivers do not generally get dizzy when racing on ovals. It can happen, but it has nothing to do with turning left between 400 and 500 times at short tracks. Instead, dizziness and disorientation can occur if a driver is not adequately hydrated during a race. G-forces may also contribute. 

Below, we will expand on whether NASCAR drivers get dizzy when racing at certain events. We will also outline if dizzy spells occur following events like a hard crash, before we reveal just how physically and sometimes mentally demanding a NASCAR race can get. 

Do NASCAR Drivers Get Dizzy When Racing?

NASCAR drivers do not generally get dizzy when racing. Many of the tracks are oval in shape, and the straights between the corners mean drivers aren’t actually driving in circles. Drivers may get dizzy from dehydration or as a result of the physical exertion NASCAR requires.

Some NASCAR races last for up to 500 laps, and the fall Bristol race is one of those races. However, track size or layout does not contribute to dizziness, disorientation, or blurred vision. So as far as NASCAR drivers getting dizzy when racing, it has nothing to do with the track being short, or even an oval at all. 

Something interesting that 7-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson has pointed out is the idea of motion sickness. He stated that he is prone to it unless he happens to be the one driving. So, this wouldn’t cause him any trouble during a race!

For most drivers, the task at hand can also ward off dizziness, given the immense amount of focus needed during green flag laps of a NASCAR race. But as we’ve mentioned, dizziness can be an issue

Dizziness May Occur

One thing about NASCAR is that drivers are wearing a helmet, a fire suit, and gloves with nothing but a primitive air conditioning unit attached to their helmet that is designed to keep them from overheating or suffering heat-related illnesses. Therefore, dizziness can occur if a driver gets overheated during a race. That, in turn, can also lead to disorientation. 

NASCAR cars can get unbelievably hot during an event given their lack of a true air conditioning system. And since the majority of the NASCAR season takes place during the hottest months of the year and predominantly in the south, it is not uncommon for drivers to race in temperatures surpassing 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius). 

An 80-degree day can heat a car to as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius). So, it is easy to see why NASCAR drivers can get dizzy when racing not just on ovals, but anywhere. It only takes a one-percent loss in body fluid for such symptoms like dizziness and disorientation to set in. 

Hydration Is Key

To combat dizziness, drivers have to be properly hydrated before a race. They will further ensure they remain hydrated during an event, just as an NFL player does during a three-hour game. Since NASCAR does not allow its drivers out of the cars to take breaks, they must improvise on how to keep themselves from dehydrating and overheating. 

Some drivers will drink water or Gatorade that they store in the car during the race. Others have built-in hydration systems where they access water through a straw in their helmet. During the second half of the race, the sixth man, called the utility man, may give the driver even more water to last them for the remainder of the race. 

Dizziness Following A Crash

Dizziness and even blacking out can occur during and following a crash. This is not as big of an issue with the Generation 7, or Next Gen car, as it was with the older cars. But it can still be a hindrance for drivers at various times, regardless of the number of safety features the cars have. 

Dizziness is often a sign of a concussion, of which there is a history in NASCAR. So, dizziness and disorientation can occur following a crash. This can and has caused NASCAR drivers in the past to miss an extended amount of time. 

Sometimes, head injuries following a crash can linger for years after the event. Ricky Craven stated in 2016 that he still has issues with his vision from a crash that occurred in 1998 at the Texas Motor Speedway. 

KEY POINTS

• NASCAR drivers can get dizzy when racing, but it’s rare

• Usually, any dizziness comes from dehydration or the conditions inside the car

• NASCAR drivers may also feel dizzy after a crash

Is A NASCAR Race Physically Demanding?

A NASCAR race is very physically demanding. However, you would not have known this before the 21st century, as few drivers followed serious fitness and nutritional regimens until Mark Martin popularized the lifestyle during the 1990s. Driving at high speeds affects drivers’ bodies in many ways.

Today, many drivers have followed Martin and are now much better prepared to handle the physical demands that NASCAR places on its drivers. And while you may not think simply driving around a track is physically demanding, think about what driving at such high speeds does to one’s heart rate, plus the adrenaline rush that naturally follows. 

The added adrenaline rush is going to make the heart work harder, which is why you saw NASCAR drivers like Jimmie Johnson embark on serious training regimens that involved both high-intensity and distance cardio. By adopting such programs, drivers could successfully circumvent the effects of an increased heart rate for a prolonged amount of time. 

Jimmie Johnson’s Cardio Training 

Johnson often did some type of cardio training workout six days per week, even on the eve of race day. For example, he ran for 45 minutes every Monday and cycled for 75 miles that same day. He biked in 30-minute intervals the next day too, and that occurred following a 3,000-yard swim (2,750 meters)!

Wednesday included a seven-mile run with 80-second hill climbs, where he sprinted up a hill before jogging back down. Thursday was an active recovery day for cardio, before he ran for three miles (about 5 km), swam for another 3,000 yards, and ran an additional three miles. Saturday included just 20 minutes of running, but 50 miles (80 kilometers) of interval riding. 

Johnson’s training program was no outlier. This is something you see most if not all NASCAR drivers practice in the 21st century. The only difference is that their training programs are geared toward their individual needs, but you can bet they contain some serious cardio workouts. 

To a lesser degree, you will also see drivers engage in weight training since they are seeking a complete training program. Weights will further build strength in the core, shoulders, and arm areas, all of which are taxed excessively on race day. 

G-Forces In NASCAR Explained

G-forces are another reason NASCAR is so physically demanding. The more acceleration you are subjecting your body to, the more G-forces you experience. So, if you weigh 140 lb (64 kg) and you are experiencing 3 G’s, you will feel as though you weigh 420 lb (191 kg). Now, a NASCAR driver might feel that in the corners for as long as they are driving under green flag conditions. 

This is by no means a comfortable position to be in, especially since prolonged exposure to G-forces can also contribute to dizziness and disorientation. Blurred vision is another side effect, so to completely answer the question of whether or not NASCAR drivers get dizzy when racing, they most certainly can. 

But this is not a common occurrence given the drivers’ insistence on remaining in good shape throughout the long racing season. Being in good enough shape to withstand three G-forces for up to five hours in some circumstances, such as at the Coca Cola 600, is a true testament to just how in shape these drivers are in. 

KEY POINTS

• NASCAR is a very physically demanding sport

• Drivers often have intense fitness and diet programs

• NASCAR drivers are also subjected to varying G-forces while racing

Final Thoughts

It’s possible for NASCAR drivers to get dizzy on ovals and road courses, but it’s uncommon and usually not as a result of “driving in circles.” Nutritional and training programs offset dizziness and disorientation from G-forces. Drivers further ward off dizziness by staying hydrated in a race.