Riddle me this: What is one of the most-asked questions in NASCAR that has nothing to do with a race car, track, driving or winning a race?
If I've heard that question once, I've heard it a thousand times: "Are NASCAR drivers really athletes?"
You might say no if you've watched the video contained in Gabe Zaldivar's recent Bleacher Report/Swagger report on new Sprint Cup champ Brad Keselowski's basketball prowess, or complete lack thereof.
Yes, NASCAR drivers—at least some of them—are truly athletes. Even though some drivers like to laugh about their so-called workout routines of lifting beer cans instead of weights, or riding a couch instead of a bike, there's no question that many drivers today take their fitness seriously.
Whether you want to believe it or not, a fit driver is a better driver, someone who can withstand countless hours and laps around a racetrack. How would you like to spend four or five hours behind the wheel without any breaks—Except for caution periods—like in the grueling Coca-Cola 600?
NASCAR drivers are indeed athletes.
"In the last 10 years there has been a major push on the fitness side," five-time Cup champ Jimmie Johnson once said during an interview with Men's Fitness magazine. "Before, the car would break down before the driver's fitness level would give up. Now the cars are so superior that the weak link is the driver in a lot of the cases. Older drivers, like Bobby Labonte and (now retired) Dale Jarrett, spend a lot of time [working out]. And the whole younger crowd like Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne are always in the gym, too."
In fact, some of them take things to the extreme, meaning extreme sports and workouts at times.
Carl Edwards is the perfect example: he takes his mountain bike with him on his private plane, has a home gym and can be found hitting countless other gyms when he's on the road.
"Driving is 90 percent mental—and the last 10 percent is where the physical side helps you." Edwards said in an interview with Men's Fitness magazine. "Just like someone who sits in an office all day, you're going to make better decisions if you're well-rested and in good physical shape. I think NASCAR guys have realized in the last few years that if there's a way to get ahead, the gym is the best place to start."
A few years back, Tony Stewart used to joke about his beer and cheeseburger belly, but then went out and bought $20,000 of workout equipment, hired a trainer and after several months of dedicated work, looked the best of his Cup career.
Unfortunately, Stewart put back some of the weight he lost, scaled back his fitness routine, but still remains a fitness advocate—although maybe not as dedicated as some of the following drivers.
So without further ado, let's take a look at the Five Most Athletic Drivers in NASCAR today.
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