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Here is something I found on this great interwebnets of ours.
In the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the term "sport" as a noun means "physical activity engaged in for fun." Now imagine going around a track with some forty other cars at close to (and more than) 200 mph.
Imagine how hot it gets inside and outside the car as heat rises on the track. Imagine going through this with few restroom breaks. Imagine, for just a second, having to withstand these conditions for 500 laps. Not only do drivers have to withstand heat, they have to have the endurance to power their way around a track and become physical with other cars by bumping them repeatedly, increasing their chance of accidents and death.
Here is a question that one must ask when debating this topic: are driver's athletes? Yes, they are, but not conventional or "ball sport" athletes.
Drivers do not need to be in peak physical condition in comparison to the "ball sport" athletes, but he or she does need to be in shape. No one has ever seen a racecar driver that is overweight. Drivers need to have a keen sense of sight and impeccable hand-eye coordination. Their timing has to be right on or it could mean their lives. Drivers have to train to withstand these conditions in order to survive and be successful.
Drivers are athletes because they have to be in shape to drive not only physically, but mentally as well. They, like any other athlete, have to know their trade very well. Their knowledge about cars, speed and physics are amazing.
In the course of a racing event, a driver has to learn when to draft and when not to draft. For some of those that don't know, drafting is when the driver allows the car in front of them to pull the driver's car along with their own speed.
Drivers also have to know when to go high on the track and when to go low, not only to pass a driver to gain position, but also to avoid death.
In answering the question of drivers being athletes, the question of whether or not racing is a sport has been answered as well.
When thinking about the event of racing, think about all that goes into racing and keep an open mind about what the word "sport" means. The conditions of racing make it more difficult than ball sports.
Take the time to watch a race on television and believe me - it is just as boring as watching baseball, but racing is more than just going around a track or making a bunch of left turns.
Racing is dangerous, physical and calculating. To be successful in the sport of racing one must have high stamina, a great deal of poise and patience, along with a keen sense of time. It is only prudent to mention these things to show how mentally in-shape a driver must be, along with the physical attributes mentioned earlier.
Finally, a driver must be in control of his or her car while all of the aforementioned distractions are happening all around them.
The speed, the danger, the heat, the bumping and the accidents all make racing a sport and the most dangerous one at that.
It's a sport in the sense that driving expensive cars in a circle is a sport. "WhoooWeee mah, did ya see that thar fucker take that cernner? He's haulin ass I tells ya! Hooooweeee he's a comin' roun agin fer anudder one mah!"
My dad worked for Nascar when I was a kid. Jesus that shit gets old after one season. And Mark Martin... world class prick.
I don't watch NASCAR, nor would I say that I like it.
It is just like any other racing sport, just happens that the others run on twisty-turny courses.
Get past the constant circle thing, and look at the actual cars. They are, essentially, common car powerplants; Ford Taurus, Dodge Intrepid, etc. But these engines are beefed up enough to be able to pull 200+mph for ~500 laps a race a week on a ~150 degree tarmac. Tell me that isn't impressive.