NASCAR, a popular sport for many, consists of drivers who speed around tracks at remarkable paces. But, is driving in a circle at great speeds really such a skillful endeavor? Many would say yes, as it takes remarkable reflex control and awareness at such speeds to control where the car moves and to avoid accidents. Others would note that NASCAR simply consists of making a series of left hand turns, only faster than people are usually accustomed to, and thus takes little skill to pull off.
Ask any racing driver, or athlete for that matter, and you are bound to hear different answers to the question at hand. Some drivers, like professional and coach Micheal Johnson, would say that NASCAR drivers require much more than raw skill to be successful, and that money and network connections allow you to truly thrive in the sport. While these areas are not necessarily tied to skill, they are important nonetheless. However, to athletes like former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb, NASCAR takes little to no skill at all, and drivers of the sport should not even be considered athletes.
While people may never reach a true consensus on whether NASCAR drivers should be classed as athletes in the sense that other sport athletes are, it seems rather irresponsible to discredit the sport as lacking skill without first analyzing the factors that affect NASCAR drivers throughout their careers.
Simply put, NASCAR, like any activity that demands attention to detail, is not a sport that anyone can pick up right away. While the ability to pick something up easily does not necessarily indicate that skill is required to participate in the sport, NASCAR drivers insist that those at the highest level of the sport began training at a very young age, as it is simply not possible to be a winning NASCAR driver without substantial and proper training under your belt.
Without knowledge of your car's ability, as well as the prowess to control such a powerful vehicle under pressure, NASCAR racers would not find success. In addition, maneuvers like passing, drafting, and other maneuvers, many of which could be considered skills in their own right, take time and energy in order to master.
In addition to knowledge, aptitude for control, and substantial training, NASCAR drivers must be conditioned in order to withstand the elements during a race. A 2012 ESPN study conducted on driver Danny Hamlin revealed that drivers must be in good physical shape to withstand exceedingly hot temperatures. Additionally, extreme G-forces are exerted onto the driver's bodies while turning, which, if physically unprepared, can overwhelm a driver's body. Famous drivers like Jimmy Johnson may run many miles in order to condition themselves for a race, while other drivers, such as Tony Stewart, condition themselves by driving constantly.
It seems impossible to say exactly how much skill a NASCAR driver needs to possess in order to play the sport, but it can be concluded that skill is most certainly something that drivers of the sport have and need to find success. After training and conditioning, drivers apply their knowledge of the sport to zoom around a track full of other drivers all cautiously attempting to calculate how they will be able to climb positions.
So, it would seem that, in the same way other sports require a great deal of skill to play, NASCAR takes a great deal of skill to participate in. Great drivers are not born overnight, and must diligently study and practice their sport, just like any other athlete. While McNabb may feel that NASCAR drivers are not athletes in the same sense that he is, there is a reason that sports like Football and NASCAR both produce recognizable names. The most skilled players of any sport are bound to receive acclaim, and that is no accident. If everyone possessed the skill to play such sports, perhaps no one would have ever praised the names of Dale Earnheardt, Jimmy Johnson, or Donovan McNabb for that matter.