Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Great Debate: Are Race Car Drivers Athletes?

"Do I think he [NASCAR six time champion Jimmie Johnson] is an athlete? Absolutely not. He sits in a car and he drives. That doesn't make you athletic ... What athletically is he doing?"  - Donovan McNabb (Retired NFL player).

The full context of McNabb's comment:

Tiger Woods? How high does the heart rate of a golfer go?  Does Tiger Woods ever wonder whether he'll come out of the next putt alive?

McNabb's comment outraged NASCAR fans, who were quick to respond on the social media. But the best response came from Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (Sarah Fisher is herself a former IZOD IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 driver), who monitored the heart rate of their driver, Josef Newgarden, during a high-speed test drive.

Newgarden's heart rate averaged about 180 beats per minute during the drive, with the lowest being 162, and the highest 190 beats per minute. Keep in mind that IndyCar drivers have to endure this for between three to four hours, except for pit stops (usually lasting about ten seconds) and cautions, which give them a "breather".

NASCAR drivers experience around 3Gs, while IndyCar drivers can go as high as 5Gs. Comparing G-Forces in IndyCar to a fighter jet pilot:

 Josef Newgarden's physical fitness training program.

 Make no mistake: The debate is over!

Race car drivers ARE athletes, and among the fittest athletes in the world.

After reading the above post, Michael E. Tymn sent in the following comment:

Ray, I think "athlete" must first be defined. As I see it, there are three components to athleticism -- power (strength x speed), endurance, and agility (including coordination). Many so-called athletes display one or the other but not all. A champion distance runner likely has slow-twitch muscle fibers and therefore lacks in speed and overall power. Chances are he or she, lacking speed, also can't long jump very far or high, thus lacking agility. Most sprinters, having fast-twitch fibers, lack in endurance. Where to draw the line?

(Mike Tymn, formerly a columnist with Runner's World (1986-92) and Running Times (1993- 2014), now writes for National Masters News, and is also the author of Running on Third Wind. )


Donovan McNabb: NASCAR drivers aren't athletes.

NASCAR : The Hidden Battle Behind the Wheel You Don’t See.

Think driving a race car looks easy? You don’t know fit.

Here We Go Again: Are Race Car Drivers Athletes?

Tate's take a common one in sports.

Race Car Drivers As Athletes.

Donovan McNabb is right, race car drivers are not athletes. They are something far more impressive..

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