Like many spectators across the globe, I have caught a case of Olympic fever. I'm filled up with all the winter action goodness: snowboarding, skiing, men's figure skating and even curling.
I look forward to the Winter Olympics every four years. It is the only time that I really deviate from my first love, NASCAR.
The Winter Olympic games truly have a little something for everyone...except for stock car lovers. Unless of course, you are a huge Geoff Bodine fan.
It is doubtful that we will ever see NASCAR involved the winter games, but what if?
Just how would NASCAR stack up against the likes of speed skating or bobsledding?
The following slides will show you just how competitive NASCAR could be when it comes to challenging some of the greatest athletes in the world.
In alpine skiing, racers can reach speeds of more than 130 kilometers an hour, traveling down a vertical drop that ranges from 180 meters (slalom) to 1,100 meters (downhill) for men and 140 meters (slalom) to 800 meters (downhill) for women.
The vertical drop is made even more difficult because of a series of gates the skiers must pass through.
In NASCAR, racers can reach speeds over 200 MPH, traveling around oval tracks that range from 0.526 to 2.66 miles in length.
No two tracks are the same and each are made more difficult thanks in part to varying degrees of banking (the steepness built into a track).
The biathlon, which come from the Greek word meaning "two tests," combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting.
The skiing portion of the biathlon requires fast and physically demanding cross-country free-technique racing, while the rifle shooting requires accuracy and control.
There is no real equivalence to the Biathlon in NASCAR. However, a recent study conducted by www.meetmeattheraces.com, a free singles dating web site that caters to to the nation's 75-million NASCAR enthusiasts and those who want to meet them, showed that 42 percent of fans loved their hunting and fishing.
Today’s bobsleigh is built to be fast and aerodynamic, with a rounded fiberglass nose and four highly polished steel runners.
To start, the racers push off as fast as they can for approximately 50 meters, then jump into the bobsleigh for a seated descent down the track. The driver steers down the track, while, at the end of the run, the brakeman stops the sled.
There are three Olympic bobsleigh events: the men compete in two-and four-man bobsleigh and women in a two-person format.
In all Olympic Games events, four heats are held over two days, with medals being awarded to the team with the lowest combined time, measured to 0.01 of a second.
NASCAR veteran Geoff Bodine created the project in 1992 after he noticed USA Olympic Bobsled athletes competing with European made sleds. At that time, Team USA had not won a medal since the 1956 Winter Games in Cortina.
Bodine set out on a quest—a “Made in America” sled project that would provide USA Bobsled athletes with sleds designed with NASCAR technology. At the 1994 games, the USA teams used the sleds but still had no medal results and in 1998 they just missed a medal by two hundredths of a second.
At the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, they broke the drought with a silver and a bronze in the four-man competition along with Ggld in the women’s competition.
The USA team is now a constant medal winner on the World Cup circuit, and the sleds are known as one of the best in the world, if not the best. Their signature is how quiet they are compared to other sleds coming down the mountain.
Pretty impressive stuff from a good ol' boy!
The art of curling might seem silly to some, but it is a team sport in which skill and precision are key.
The game is played on ice, in which two teams take turns pushing 19.1-kilogram stones towards a series of concentric rings or circles. The object is to get the stones as close to the center of the rings as possible.
One game consists of 10 “ends” (similar to innings in baseball). During each end, each four-person team “throws” (in fact, slides along the ice) eight stones—two stones per person and 16 altogether.
Team members sweep the ice clean in front of each stone to control the stone’s direction, known as its “curl,” and the stone’s speed. The team with the most points—more stones closer to the center of the rings—at the conclusion of 10 ends is the winner.
In NASCAR, we often equate a win or lose to the driver behind the wheel, but pit crews remind us that it is indeed a team effort.
As the driver makes his way down pit road during the race, the pit crew keeps the path clear of debris and ultimately guides the car into the pit box, centering it within the lines.
Just like in curling, the team with the most points at the end of the day is declared the winner.
I know what you are thinking, how could there possibly be any comparison between Olympic Figure Skating and NASCAR?
Some people would scoff at Johnny Weir's flamboyant choice of costumes, but when you think about it, is it any more outrageous than a grown man wearing specialty coveralls embroidered in fancy flames?
I rest my case!
There are three Olympic freestyle skiing events for both men and women. Tricks in freestyle skiing include the twister, spread-eagle, iron cross and the helicopter—an upright, 360-degree spin.
All competitors participate in a qualification round. The top 20 skiers from the round move into the final.
In NASCAR, after qualifying 43 drivers advance to the "finals."
While the actual race does not require any flashy aerials, drivers often throw in a bit of their own freestyle after taking the checkered flag, NASCAR's equivalent of the Olympic gold.
Carl Edwards' victory back-flips score him a solid 10.0 with fans every time.
In luge (the French word for “sled”), racers begin by sitting on open fiberglass sleds. Pulling on fixed handles in the ice, they burst out of the start.
After this explosive start, they use spiked gloves on the ice surface for extra acceleration before lying down on their backs, feet stretched out in front of them, heads back to be as aerodynamic as possible.
Luge racers steer using their legs and shoulders, and brake by sitting up, putting their feet down and pulling up on the sled runners.
NASCAR drivers strap into special designed cockpits, flip on the starter switch and ease their machines onto the track before taking off in a flash during a race's own explosive start.
Much like a Luge course, highly-skilled drivers maneuver the high banks and fast speeds of the track, piloting their cars like speeding bullets towards the finish line.
The Olympic Nordic Combined consists of a small group of specialized athletes trained in both cross-country skiing (demanding endurance and strength), as well as ski jumping (requiring physical strength and technical control).
The jumping portion occurs first, followed by a free technique cross-country race.
Using pack-racing strategies, the athletes cluster into “trains” that chase down other athlete trains. The winner of the Nordic combined event is the first athlete across the cross-country finish line.
A Sprint Cup race consists of specialized drivers, that many consider athletes. Endurance and strength are required to control a 3,400 lb stock car at speeds upwards of 200 MPH.
Much like the Nordic Combined, drivers often cluster into 'trains" to draft with their competitors.
When a car travels through the air it leaves a gap behind it. Another car driving in this gap doesn't have as much air resistance pushing on it's nose and can then travel faster or use less fuel to travel the same speed.
This effect can be noticed at speeds as low as 70 mph, but the effect increases with speed.
Short track speed skating takes place on a 111.12-meter oval track within a hockey rink.
Tight corners make it difficult for skaters to maintain control. A boardless padding system is now used, replacing the stand-alone board system. This ensure an increased safety for the athletes.
Short track speed skaters compete against each other, rather than the clock.
The competition consists of a series of heats with four or six athletes. The first two athletes in each heat advance to the next round until only four skaters remain for the final.
Short track racing in NASCAR is run on a track that is less than one mile in length.
Many traditional fans and purists still see short-track racing as the "real" NASCAR, because the lower speeds incurs "paint swapping," where the bodies of the cars actually rub against one another, practical without a very high likelihood of serious accidents.
In the halfpipe, one snowboarder at a time performs a routine of acrobatic jumps, twists and tricks on the inside of a half-cylinder-shaped snow tube or ramp while moving from one side of the halfpipe to the other.
The riders are judged on the height and style of their tricks.
In the parallel giant slalom, two snowboarders race head-to-head down a course, turning through a series of gates. The fastest goes on to the next round. The top finishers compete in a total of nine runs.
In snowboard cross, four racers start in a pack down a course, racing against each other over rolling terrain and a series of jumps and ramps. The fastest two racers from each heat move on to the next round.
Shaun White, dubbed "The Flying Tomato" by friend and professional skateboarder Tony Hawk, passionately celebrated his gold medal win in the halfpipe during the 2010 Olympics by waving the American flag in victory.
Dressed in his sponsor Bass Pro Shops fiery red fire suit, Jamie McMurray was the NASCAR equivalent of "The Flying Tomato." He rocketed his Chevy into victory lane during the 2010 Daytona 500 on Valentine's Day.
Not to be outdone by an Olympiad, McMurray proudly waved the checkered flag used to signal the end of the race during his post-race celebration.
This year's Olympic speed skating events take place on a 400-meter oval ice rink housed in Vancouver's Richmond Olympic Oval.
The Oval, located across the river from the Vancouver International Airport and near Richmond city center, holds a capacity of 7,600 spectators.
The venue will play host to several events during the two-week span of Olympic games.
Long before the Canadian's broke ground on their speed skating venue, we NASCAR fans celebrated the original "Richmond Oval."
NASCAR's Richmond International Raceway is located in Virginia's capital and plays host to two NASCAR weekend events yearly.
It is short track racing at it's finest, combining "action with the need for superspeedway horsepower in multigroove racing."
The .75 mile oval has a seating capacity of 97,912, enough room to hold 12 times the capacity of Vancouver's Richmond Oval.
Olympic speed skating provides up to 5,000 meters of excitement during an event, while a race at RIR fuels action-packed adrenaline junkies for 400 miles!