AP Says NASCAR Drivers are Athletes12.22.09
Four-time NASCAR Chase Cup winner Jimmie Johnson just won the AP Male Athlete of the Year Award, beating out perennials like Tiger Woods and Roger Federer, and Olympic phenom Usain Bolt. He is the first race car driver to win the award in its nearly 80-year history.
I’m sure this will bring up the ever-present question of whether or not NASCAR drivers should be considered athletes. Johnson wholeheartedly thinks they should:
““I’ve looked at other sports, particularly baseball, and I’ve seen plenty of out-of-shape, fat players. So to anyone who wants to go head-to-head with me in athletic ability, let’s go. I talked a lot with Jason Sehorn about this, and I don’t know how exactly you measure athletic ability, but I know my 5-mile run time will destroy most NFL players.”
I’m not saying that Jimmie Johnson isn’t in shape or can’t run a sub-7 minute mile, but at what point does he simply become an athlete who happens to drive a car professionally? It’s also a pretty futile examination to compare players from different sports with one another – I can’t imagine many golfers could handle the NFL combine, for example, but they’re still athletes… right? – so I don’t know that his argument holds that since he could potentially out-run a linebacker that it means he’s an athlete by trade. Perhaps he’s simply a driver who has an affinity for working out.
The notion that a driver needs to be in good shape to handle the rigors of driving a race car seems pretty obvious. One needs to be lean enough to fit into the car, have the stamina to withstand the intense heat and duration of the confined space for hours at a time in a high-stress environment, and have the muscle strength and tone to fight off the centrifugal force while flying around a circular track at nearly 200 miles per hour. And they compete against other drivers for the Chase Cup, they have teammates, there’s a high amount of skill involved. All signs point to athlete and sport.
But, what about a poker players? Games can last for well over several hours, which would require stamina, endurance, mental fortitude, a strong back to withstand sitting for that long. They compete for an ultimate prize at the end of a season, also a high level of skill necessary to be successful.
So, poker is a sport?
I’m being only half-serious here, but the issue remains: Are NASCAR drivers athletes?
The Associated Press says they are.