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12 Reasons Why Auto Racing is a Sport (NASCAR, F1, Indy,…)

If you are a fan of NASCAR, Indy, Formula 1, or any other kind of auto racing, you probably think that it is a sport, but is it really? Believe it or not, there are many people that do not share the same sentiments – I found this out recently for myself. The argument on this one has been raging on for many years now. I personally believe that auto racing is a sport and can be considered a sport for a number of reasons. 

After careful consideration and a lot of research, I pieced together several compelling reasons why auto racing, such as F1, NASCAR, and other forms, is, in fact, worthy of being considered a sport. With 12 good reasons to consider auto racing a sport, there is no doubt in my mind that that is exactly what it is. Do you want to learn about each of these points? If so, read on.

These are 12 reasons why auto racing is a sport:

1. The act of auto racing perfectly aligns with the definition of “sport”.

How does auto racing fit in with the definition of the word “sport”? 

The Oxford Dictionary defines “sport” as:

“an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment”. 

Lexico – Powered by Oxford

Auto racing is physically demanding on the driver, involves individuals and teams competing for the championship title, and provides international entertainment. 

2. Auto racing drivers lose weight when racing.

There is much debate around whether or not racing is a sport. The biggest argument presented against auto racing being a sport is that “the driver simply sits in the driver’s seat and controls the machine, which does all the work” – and if you do not know much about auto racing, you might tend to agree and even believe this. 

People who have never done any racing might not know just how much physical exertion is imposed on the body. In fact, due to the high heat and physical exertion resulting from high G-force, drivers (in the case of F1) are known to lose 3 kg per race.

3. A racing driver’s heart rate is elevated to that of a person doing exercise or playing a sport. 

A sport requires physical exertion. Physical exertion happens when the heart rate is elevated due to physical exercise or physical activity. There is no way to argue that racing does not require physical exertion as race monitoring and tests have proven that a racing driver’s heart rate is highly elevated during a race. 

In many instances, the heart rate is raised to the same level or even higher of someone going for a run. Don’t believe me? Then, I’ll suggest you check the following video:

Video Source: YouTube / TOYOTA GAZOO Racing

4. It takes stamina (of the driver) to withstand the G-force.

G-force can be difficult for the average person on the street to understand. When experience high G-force levels, a person can make a person have tunnel vision, loss of peripheral vision, pass out, loss of vision while still remaining fully conscious, nausea, and feeling dizzy or faint.

When asked to explain the G-force that F1 drivers experience, head of car engineering, Paul Monaghan made the following statement

“the predominant accelerative forces experienced by a driver are lateral and longitudinal, with the peaks exceeding 4.5g. The driver’s body will experience forces four and a half times his or her own weight, albeit for short periods of time”.

Paul Monaghan

To withstand this type of G-force without getting sick or potentially fainting, drivers have to practice withstanding the G-force and must develop stamina.

5. Motor racing is highly competitive.

As part of the definition of a sport, the activity has to be competitive with either 2 or more individuals (or teams) competing for a title, prize, or award. In all auto sports, including karting, NASCAR, Formula 1, and Indy racing, the competition is high. In fact, every year it seems to increase.

6. Skills must be learned and practiced to perform as a driver.

The fact that not just anyone can climb into a racing car and earn wins on the track firmly places auto racing into the definition of a sport. Most current auto racing stars have spent their entire lives working towards the titles they have earned. Auto racing requires consistent practice, and drivers are required to spend a large portion of their time mastering skills on the track and taking advice from their technical (and mechanical) teams. 

7. To perform, racing drivers must be in optimal physical condition

Most people do not know this, but F1 racing drivers (and other auto racing drivers too) have to put in regular hours of physical exercise. 

In 2017, changes to F1 regulations meant that drivers could experience a 10 to 15% increase in G-force. McLaren and other leading F1 teams proceeded to adjust and enhance their driver performance programs as a result. The typical F1 driver’s workout regime consists of the following:

  • HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training)
  •  30 seconds of high-speed exercise followed by 90 seconds of slow jogging (rest period). This is repeated 10 times.
  • Deadlifts and squats are done to increase strength, balance, and flexibility.
  • Push-ups and pull-ups are done to develop strong core muscles, stabilizes the spine, and helps with countering G-force effects on the track.
  • Balance ball V-sit exercises for strength building to help with steering stability on the track.
  • Side planks with legs raise to work the core and build strong abs, which really helps with stamina and strength building.

8. Auto racing requires coordination and strategic thinking. 

In any sport, the participants must learn several hand-eye coordination skills and must also learn to think strategically to earn the team wins. With auto racing drivers, coordination comes when having to steer, watch other drivers around the vehicle, change gears quickly, and make sudden direction changes.

9. Drivers must make technical (and critical) decisions for hours on end.

In terms of mental and physical exertion, the fact that drivers on the track must be thinking technically and critically for hours, while under immense pressure, in a high-heat environment, and with G-force added to the mix; it is obvious that drivers are in fact athletes and that auto racing is a sport. 

10. Auto racing requires mental and physical conditioning. 

It takes years to learn how to control a car in such a way that you can navigate between other fast-moving vehicles and not collide. The body has to be physically fit, the mind has to be ready, and the driver must have practiced enough for the body to rely on “muscle memory”. It takes decades to get to a pro-level; in fact, most auto racing drivers, who are stars right now, started out with some form of auto racing as kids. Most start their career with go-karting.

11. Motor racing drivers display agility.

Sports require physical fitness, endurance, stamina, and agility. Most auto racing cars are built and tweaked around the abilities and agility of the driver. The driver must consistently provide feedback so that the technical teams can work on the car. Without agility, the F1 driver’s car would pale in comparison to the others on the track.

12. F1 is regulated by a sports council called ‘The World Motor Sport Council’. 

All official sports are governed and regulated by sports councils and boards. This is a sure sign that a sport has merit and is worthy of being called a sport. For instance, F1 is governed and regulated by the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC).

Auto Racing: Sport or Not a Sport? You Decide!

At the end of the day, how you choose to view auto racing is really up to you. Do you think that auto racing has enough merit to be considered a sport? Do the above points make you consider that auto racing could be a sport, or are they inconsequential to you? To me, they make all the difference. I am certain that auto racing is a sport. What do you think?