Putting the Sport in Motorsports: NASCAR Is As Much of a Sport As Football

Daniel HarmonContributor IJanuary 9, 2011

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 15:  Crewmen for the #43 Petty Enterprises Cheerios Dodge of Jeff Green prepare to refuel during the Daytona 500 at Sunoco has replaced the 76 Brand  as the offcial supplier to NASCAR and the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series. Daytona 500 on February 15, 2004  at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo By Darrell Ingham/Getty Images)
Darrell Ingham/Getty Images

Growing up as a NASCAR fan in western Pennsylvania is not easy. In an area where people bleed Steelers black and gold, NASCAR fans are hard to find. With all of the football lovers surrounding me, I hear a statement that most NASCAR fans must deal with at some point in their fanhood.

"NASCAR's not a sport! It's a bunch of rednecks going around in circles!"

No other statement can make a NASCAR fan more aggravated than this one. Especially when the statement has no supporting evidence.

NASCAR is in fact a sport. Race car drivers are athletes. It's a fact.

I always hear the argument, "How are they athletes? Look at Tony Stewart, he's out of shape." Well, I ask you, are all football players in shape? Have you ever seen the offensive line?

Are you telling me that a NASCAR driver is not an athlete because there are some who are husky? By those rules, half of all players in the NFL wouldn't be athletes, either.

But just as football players come in all sizes, so do NASCAR drivers. All of them have their own workout program that allows them to be able to withstand a season of racing. Without training, these drivers would have a hard time lasting in a 500-mile race.

The argument that all these drivers do is hit the gas pedal and turn left is wrong, too. The drivers are actually like quarterbacks in many ways.

The driver's have to be mentally prepared before race day. They have to give feedback on how their car handles in practice to have a race-able car on race day, get a feel for the racetrack and where the grooves are, and even find their marks for braking zones and where to hit the gas pedal.

This is no different than a quarterback running plays with his offense to sharpen their ability to make plays.

A quarterback has to know when to force a play into coverage. A NASCAR driver has to know when to force a pass. If a driver forces a pass, he could take himself out of the race. Just like how a quarterback throwing into too much coverage will be intercepted.

A driver has to know what to do in a bad situation, too. Losing control of the race car is like the pocket collapsing on a quarterback. Both a driver and quarterback have to make quick decisions to avoid trouble.

Also, while a quarterback is conscientious of the time on the huddle clock, a NASCAR driver is conscientious of his speed on pit road. If a driver is the slightest bit over the speed limit, he is forced to pit again for a penalty. The penalty is harder to overcome than football's delay of game penalty.

There is also preparation required for success in the sport. Just as an NFL team, or a team in any sport, would prepare their strategy and playbook, NASCAR teams have to prepare their cars for the upcoming races.

The teams will use anything from simulators to testing to notes from previous setups just to build their cars. They then use practice like all other sports to tweak their setups and prepare for race day.

Have you ever noticed how when a sports team is having a poor collective effort, it usually doesn't win? The same goes for NASCAR teams. If they are not performing at their best on race day, their chances of winning will be slim.

By the way, these drivers aren't running in the same "circle". First off, they aren't even circles. Each track has its own unique shape, banking, and characteristics that teams and drivers must prepare for and adjust to week after week.

Lastly, NASCAR drivers are also forced to battle certain conditions like football players are. These drivers have to endure high temperatures that most of us would likely be driven to madness if we had to drive in.

The point is NASCAR is nothing like just driving down the interstate. These teams and drivers go through as much work and pressure as any other sport. There are millions of fans all over the world who wholeheartedly agree.

To give football die-hards a taste of their own words: football is just a bunch of guys playing with a ball on a spot of grass.

So I dare you to tell us NASCAR isn't a sport. An army of NASCAR fans in a race day crowd would outnumber any other sport...period.