NASCAR Drivers and Their Physical Health

Are NASCAR drivers athletes? Some debate the fact that drivers only sit down and that it doesn’t require a lot of physical conditioning.

For those doubters, they must consider the conditions that drivers subject themselves to every time they climb into a race car. NASCAR odds would definitely be better for those drivers that take care of themselves off the track.

NASCAR race cars are beautiful, fine-tuned, high-speed machines, but they certainly aren’t immediately built for comfort.

There is no air conditioning in the cars on hot, summer Sunday afternoons where the track temperature can reach beyond 135 degrees.

The cockpit of a NASCAR race car reaches upwards of 120 degrees. Sitting in the car for a 500-mile race, racing at 200 mph is demanding on the drivers.

As previously mentioned, there is no air conditioning and to not inhibit the aerodynamics of the car, there is minimal airflow into the cockpit.

The car’s G-forces far exceed what a human body should be subjected to. As the drivers negotiate a track with a 3,400-pound race car, there is a struggle between the two of them throughout the race.

Controlling the steering wheel is demanding enough. Think about how tired your arms get after a two-hour drive for about 130 miles. 

Now think about driving at 200 mph for 500 miles without a break, a chance to stretch your legs or a way to change out drivers.

Add in the corners of the superspeedway tracks that closely equal that of the pitch of a home’s rooftop, and you get pressure on the drivers’ bodies of three G’s. As an example, a 150-pound driver’s body would feel like 450 pounds in those corners.

Getting your car through a corner on a highway doesn’t take nearly the physical strength as it does with a NASCAR stock car.

While race cars do have power steering, it isn’t the same as what’s in our personal vehicles. When you add in the differences of handling, the long distances of the races, turning a race car for a distance of 400-500 miles requires a high level of strength, stamina, and mental awareness.

Aerobic conditioning is imperative for drivers in today’s race cars. The airflow of a race car is designed for the air to move around the car efficiently, making clean air inside the cockpit lessened.

Without the airflow, the potential hazardous carbon monoxide exhaust coming from other cars is a real possibility. What little oxygen a driver does get inside the cockpit has to be maximized efficiently, making physical conditioning so important.

Rest and good nutrition are vital to a race car driver’s success and safety. With the lack of quality oxygen and the G-forces making disorientation more likely and potentially dangerous, eating right and getting enough sleep are crucial.

Under the extreme conditions drivers endure each race, the need for physical conditioning is more important than that of typical athletes in that not maintaining optimal health can be dangerous and even fatal given the wrong conditions.

Weight training is also included in their training to increase their strength for steering and braking during long races.

The body can withstand the excessive forces and abuse endured by being built up through proper physical training.

NASCAR driver physical conditioning is where drivers separate themselves from the pack many times.

For drivers to run practices for a couple of days, then have a day of intense qualifying for the race and go into Sunday’s race, requires arguably more stamina and conditioning than most other sports and should be viewed as necessary as most due to the dangerous nature of the profession.

There are other inherent dangers for NASCAR drivers that physical conditioning cannot help, but are also factors in their health.

The extreme noise they are subjected to inside the cockpit with a 670-horsepower engine vibrating 3.400 pounds of steel and vehicle components along with the other cars around them create an unusual amount of potential hearing issues.

Although they typically wear earplugs, they also have their pit crews talking to them through a headset for up to 500 miles.

Dehydration is also a big concern for racers even though they do have onboard water bottles to lessen the effects.

This is where the solid nutritional regimens come into play as blood clotting can become a concern, especially in their legs as they are putting so much pressure on their lower extremities throughout the race.

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