5 Ways to Win a Debate with Anyone Who Says NASCAR Drivers Aren't Athletes
"Why do they put NASCAR on ESPN and SportsCenter? It's not a sport. Those guys aren't athletes."
Yawn. We've heard it all before. The only argument that's older is "Who is the best driver of all time?" And the key difference is that only one of these questions can be answered in many different ways.
Frequently, athletes from other sports who dismiss NASCAR drivers' athletic abilities find themselves looking stupid. Remember when Golden Tate dissed Jimmie Johnson at the ESPYs a couple of years ago? He got absolutely reamed for it, with as much pure knowledge as hatred, and came around pretty quickly.
So, NASCAR fans, when your uninformed buddy starts breaking out the same old song and dance, here are five quick ways to put them in their place without having to recite too many statistics.
Counterpunch: Every Sport Has Its Tony Stewart
The most common argument that detractors of NASCAR make is that fitness is not required for success. The key to this revolves around Tony Stewart, whose expanding trophy case (three championships) has also come with an expanding waistline over the years.
Here's the quickest response to that: David Wells, Gilbert Brown, C.C. Sabathia, John Kruk, Prince Fielder, William "The Refrigerator" Perry, John Daly, Albert Haynesworth, Robert Traylor, George Foreman, Kyle Wellwood, Jared Lorenzen, Eddy Curry, James Toney, Eric "Butterbean" Esch, every sumo wrestler ever...
Have I made my point yet that this is a superficial argument?
Quantify: The Craziest Reps You'll Ever Do
Every workout warrior always boasts about how many reps they can do and how much resistance is put on them when they do them. It's the easiest and most quantifiable way to measure just how much work was done.
Try this on for size.
NASCAR drivers are effectively doing reps of arm and leg exercises for four straight hours every race. But they're doing so while feeling constant G-force up to three times as high as a stationary human.
That means even the lightest drivers, like the 100-pound Danica Patrick, are feeling about 300 pounds of force as they're doing many of those reps. Meanwhile, temperatures in the car are frequently upwards of 100 degrees.
Sound like a workout? That's because it is.
Inform: They Compete in Triathlons
Don't like the reps argument? So be it.
Try arguing against the growing list of NASCAR drivers who are competing in triathlons. No matter the distance, be it a sprint or an Ironman event, triathlons are one of the purest and most versatile athletic competitions out there.
Michael Waltrip started the trend in 2011, leading Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne to follow suit in 2012. Drivers Trevor Bayne, Blake Koch and Josh Wise competed in the Key West Triathlon over this past winter.
And Johnson has become somewhat of a triathlon nut, preparing to compete for months at a time.
Enlighten: No Breaks, No Problem
In America's biggest four sports, periods of rest are guaranteed.
You're on the bench for half of the game, minimum, in baseball. In football, the clock still runs while it takes 40 seconds to draw up a play. Basketball and hockey are much more constant in motion but still have significant mid-game breaks and players usually don't play the full game.
There is no such thing as a break for a NASCAR driver. Cautions are the closest thing, and they are not guaranteed, as seen through the first 300 laps or so of Saturday's Southern 500.
When drivers strap into the car, they're there for the next three to four hours.
Example: Bring Up Mark Martin
To compensate for the intense stresses put on their bodies over a lengthy period of time, tons of drivers these days have become workout warriors. It's not uncommon to see Carl Edwards or Jimmie Johnson on the front page of a fitness magazine. Many teams even have gyms and fitness experts in their employment.
Here's a diary that Martin wrote for Yahoo! Sports during his runner-up season in 2009, detailing his workout routine. Spoiler alert: It's four days of strength training a week, 90 minutes each day, and no skips.
Oh yeah, Martin is also 54 years old.
This is the point where you look your buddy in the eye and explain that these types of workouts are commonplace for nearly all of the sport's drivers. Then, ask him if he can do that kind of workout program every week. If he says yes, he should at least respect the level of physical commitment that many drivers apply to the sport.
If he says no, ask him to look you in the eye again and tell you that drivers still aren't athletes. Chances are, it's not happening.
For more from Christopher Leone, follow @christopherlion on Twitter.