What does a NASCAR Driver do?

G. Wiesen

A driver for the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) will typically drive a car in NASCAR races throughout the United States (US) and other countries, competing for financial rewards and endorsements. NASCAR drivers must be able to reliably handle driving a stock car for hours at a time while traveling at speeds well over 100 miles per hour (mph) (over 160 kilometers per hour or kph). There is also an assumed risk by the drivers due to the potential for accidents between one or more vehicles during any race. Since multiple drivers have died during various races over the years, a NASCAR driver must be willing to face that very real danger and maintain calm during life-threatening situations.

NASCAR drivers need to stay in shape and have good stamina in order to concentrate while driving at such high speeds.
NASCAR drivers need to stay in shape and have good stamina in order to concentrate while driving at such high speeds.

Most major stock car race tracks used by NASCAR for the various cup races will allow drivers to maintain average speeds of 100 or more mph (over 160 kph). Top speeds at Talladega Superspeedway during a race have reached more than 212 mph (more than 340 kph). A NASCAR driver must be able to maintain control at such immense speeds and think quickly. Traveling at such high speeds means that even the smallest mistake or error in judgment can create a severe accident that could cause serious injury. To be a NASCAR driver means having the mental fortitude and physical stamina to drive at such high velocities for extended periods of time while maintaining concentration.

Winning a high-ranking NASCAR cup race does offer some prize money, usually for those who place within the top five or ten. The prize money offered, however, is usually not enough to pay for all the necessary racing expenses, and not everyone who races will receive a large enough portion of the prize money. To fund the expensive needs of professional stock car racing, most NASCAR drivers will find a major corporation or small businesses to help sponsor the driver and his or her team.

Acquiring and maintaining sponsorship is almost as vital to what a NASCAR driver does as actually driving a car. Without the sponsorship of various companies, a racer would usually not be able to pay for maintenance and entry fees to drive in the major cup series. The logos or names of such companies are usually displayed on a racer’s car and uniform with varying levels of prominence. A NASCAR driver who makes a valuable reputation for himself or herself will also often be able to be hired onto a racing team with yearly salaries that include bonuses for winning or placing at major races.

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Discussion Comments

I'm not a big racing fan and I don't keep up with NASCAR driver standings or follow the drivers' lives off the tracks, but I do enjoy watching the super-speedway events on television. All the cars running so closely together and weaving in and out of lanes and pushing forward and dropping back reminds me of an elaborate dance.

I can only imagine the mental strain on the drivers. It's like a giant chess match at 200 miles an hour--except if you make a mistake, the outcome can be much worse than losing a pawn or even a queen.


Animandel - Yes, I have heard people argue whether drivers are athletes. I automatically say yes. Driving at those speeds requires physical and mental skills beyond what the normal person can do.

Also, I think that argument is out of date because of people like Mark Martin, a NASCAR driver, who works out and is built like a 30-year-old athlete when he is actually more than 50 years old.

Most drivers workout with weights as part of their routine and they are in better shape than drivers have been at any time in the sport's history. They need to be to do what they are required to do behind the wheels of those cars.

Drentel - Do you consider NASCAR drivers like Tony Stewart to be athletes. You know? there is always that debate on whether certain sports participants qualify as athletes. Does driving a car make you an athlete?

I agree with the article that it does take some mental ability and courage to race in the NASCAR series. When you think of how quickly you have to react when you're driving on the highway, it makes you wonder how NASCAR drivers can do it when they are driving 2 to 3 times faster than you are.

It's something special to watch and appreciate when NASCAR drivers like Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart are racing at speeds in the neighborhood of 200 miles per hour.

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