Thursday, July 14, 2011

NASCAR drivers are athletes just like the ball players

Jimmie Johnson (left) and 2011 Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne on the
ESPY Red Carpet at the Nokia Theatre at L.A. LIVE Wednesday in Los Angeles, Calif.
Credit: NASCAR IMC

After yesterday’s ESPY awards, the sports community was abuzz. NASCAR superstar Jimmie Johnson was nominated for Best Male Athlete. Well, according to NFL wide receiver Golden Tate’s tweets, “Jimmy johnson up for best athlete???? Um nooo .. Driving a car does not show athleticism.”

Wait a minute, Mr. Tate. As a passionate NASCAR fan and writer, I challenge you to train with Johnson, Carl Edwards, Mark Martin and many more of the top drivers who have a rigorous workout regimen.

Tate then tweeted, “I've driven a car on unknown roads at night at 90mph no big deal. No sign of athletism” and further went on to say “give me 6 months of training and I bet I could compete.”

It's absurd to say that six months of training would have him ready to compete - look at the line of drivers who have attempted NASCAR, only to be chewed up and spit out. This is not like driving the deserted country highway by your grandma’s house.

The sport of NASCAR requires high-functioning hand/eye coordination, ability to withstand extreme heat, excellent cardio fitness, and the list goes on and on. ESPN did an interesting segment in the sports lab with Carl Edwards. In reading the report from the ESPN study Carl Edwards visits the sports science lab, they concluded that:

“Edwards' results were amazing -- his cardiovascular fitness is actually on par with elite endurance athletes like marathon runners and cyclists. Then, dripping with sweat, Edwards stepped up to the light grid for a second go at the reaction test. Edwards actually improved his times by 11 hundredths of a second. That's not much -- about a third of the time it takes to blink your eye -- but when drivers are moving at 200 mph, that equates to roughly two car lengths.”

Although Mr. Tate did eventually apologize by saying, "@ShowtimeTate: Apologies for my offensive comment to NASCAR fans. I actually read up on it and NO I couldn't race a car 150 mph," it only came after a flood of tweets from angry and defensive NASCAR fans.

The fact remains, many do regard NASCAR as a non-sport. To those people, can you sit in a car for a several hour road strip without becoming fatigued? What about fighting off the traffic around you? Now think of that all in excess of 200 mph, factoring in your car may malfunction, a crash may occur and you have only thousandths of a second to respond. There are so many factors is what it takes to win a race: a great car, a stellar crew, great strategy and then you, the driver, have to take all of the above and make it work harmoniously.

Jimmie Johnson responded to Tate's comments via Twitter: "@showetimetate Ignorance is a state of being uninformed (lack of knowledge). Lucky 4 you, this can be fixed. Come to a race and be informed."

I for one hope Tate takes him up on that offer. Maybe a ride around Talladega will change his mind?

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

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