Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Rookie Stripe: 19 Things You Might Not Know About NASCAR Drivers


Photo credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs
by Logan Stewart

For all the prestige that comes with being a NASCAR driver on race day, the job itself is a labyrinth that goes well beyond Glory Road. Like an indispensable pit crew, high speed and glamour are the glossy coating of what is actually a complicated and high-pressure job. Long after the smoke clears from a celebratory burnout and the last fan has left the raceway, driver work continues, and really never stops. Here are 19 things to know about the life of NASCAR drivers:

1. Many drivers got their career starts in their younger years racing at local dirt or other tracks. They may work their way up through the other NASCAR series including K&N Pro Series East and West, the Camping World Truck Series or the XFINITY series. A few come from other forms of racing such as IndyCar.

2. Like other professional athletes, NASCAR drivers work for specific teams and are under contract, so they can be fired or penalized.

3. Most NASCAR drivers make between $1 million and $20 million per year from racing, according to this 2012 Sporting News article. The paychecks come from three main sources: a salary paid by the team, race winnings and bonuses for performance. Drivers can also make money from endorsement deals.

4. The vast majority of drivers have exercise regimens and stay in shape to keep up with the physical demands of racing. Driving 500 miles on a track with cockpit temperatures well above 100 degrees can severely impact the body, so it helps to be conditioned.

5. Some drivers also try to stay fit on the road when traveling for races. Danica Patrick has posted Instagram photos doing yoga in her motor coach, and Jimmie Johnson, a triathlete, has been known to go on long rides on his road bike.

Photo credit: Lisa Janine Cloud for Skirts and Scuffs
6. NASCAR drivers must pass physicals and drug tests.

7. Surprisingly, NASCAR drivers are not required to have an actual driver’s license.

8. They have work obligations just like the rest of us, such as attending competition meetings at their shops as well as meetings with their pit crews, team executives and more.

9. Drivers have sponsor obligations both at the track and between races. Some drivers will travel during the week to make appearances at autograph signings, charity events and company events.

10. Like other professional athletes, drivers get many media interview requests. These are handled on a case-by-case basis by their public relations staff.

11. Each weekend, drivers arrive at the track several days early  often on Thursday if the race is on a Sunday. They keep busy with practices and qualifying for the two days prior to the race.

12. Most drivers own their own motorcoaches that serve as "home away from home" at the track. They generally own these motorcoaches and they're driven or transported to each track each weekend. The motorcoaches stay in a driver/owner lot and are off limits to the public. Many driver motorcoach interiors are as nice as real homes, with showers, sleeping area(s), a kitchen, TV and WIFI.

Driver/owner lot at Darlington Raceway
Photo credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs
13. Drivers often do media interviews in their motorcoaches or standing just outside them in the lot because it's quieter and more private.

14. If a driver has kids, you'll sometimes see them playing together in the drivers' lot. The drivers' lots at some tracks, such as Darlington Raceway and Pocono Raceway, have private playground areas.

15. Many drivers bring an additional personal vehicle (car, truck, SUV) to the track to use during their multi-day stays at the track.

16. There's a drivers' meeting at the track several hours prior to each race, and drivers can be penalized for being tardy or absent.

17. At the end of each race, some drivers  including the winner and second- and third-place drivers  are required to do interviews in the infield media center at the track, even if it’s well past midnight.

18. When drivers have to go to the bathroom in the car during a race? You guessed it. They just go.

Photo credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
19. And perhaps most surprising, despite their on-track competition, most drivers are cordial or even close friends off the track.

For a list of 2016 NASCAR drivers, click here.   

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