Auto Racing is not the only activity that has been debated as a sport. Golf, bowling and ballroom dancing also fall under scrutiny as to whether they are truly sports. At least golf and ballroom dancing have had places in the Olympics which has been considered a measuring stick of activities that fall into the sports realm.
Each of us have our own definition of what constitutes a sport. To me, auto racing is not a sport. It has as much connection to sport as racing turtles (only faster). One big defining factor for me is that there is way to much emphasis on equipment. No matter how much you try, there are advantages for some driving teams. There has to be given the number of parts on a car. Not every part can be checked. I will concede that Nascar is mechanical competition. It's much more akin to a science fair than sport. From that perspective, I think it is interesting to see who can do the best to get their car in the best mechanical shape.
There is no athletic prowess needed for driving a car. A. J. Foyt is considered one of the best drivers in history and I doubt he could hold his own in other "sport" other than bowling or golf. Let's face it, making a left hand turn and depressing the accelerator is not the most difficult thing in the world.
The fascination of the activity has made it very popular with the networks and advertisers. Given the platform, auto racing makes a great place for advertisers to brand their products. That does not make auto racing a sport.
The gist of the argument is that Sports are commonly referred to as activities where the physical capabilities of the competitor are the sole or primary determiner of the outcome (winning or losing). Auto racing is NOT an athletic activity. Golf and bowling better qualify as a sport than auto racing.
I apologize if this offends some people. We tend to like to think of our activities on a high level. Many auto racing fans will be offended that their activity is not considered a sport. Just as those that excel at chess will argue their activity belongs to the pantheon of sports.
Lets face it, NASCAR is simply this: a bunch of good 'ol boys turning left for 500 miles, while other others watch and drink beer and box wine and argue whether Chevy or Ford is better. For me to consider auto racing a sport, you need convince me that the car is an athlete. I look forward to hearing how you can formulate the argument that the car is an athlete.