In the Long run: They’re just turning left…

Michael Long, Sports Editor

The month of May in Indiana is all about one thing: the Indianapolis 500. Commonly referred to as “the greatest spectacle in racing,” the Indy 500 has been around for over 100 years and brings in over 300,000 people for race day. There’s no doubt that it’s a popular and entertaining event for race fans all around the world. There’s also no doubt that it’s a beloved Indiana tradition which brings in a ton of money to our state –over $300 million to be more precise. All in all, the Indy 500 is great. I’m not dissing it. However, there is an idea surrounding the Indy 500, and really all other motor races, that I would like to take a shot at dissing. So race fans, brace yourselves, for my opinion may offend you.

To put it bluntly, driving a racecar is not a sport. At least it’s not a sport by my definition, which is when someone uses his or her athletic abilities to compete against others. Driving a racecar, I feel, does not qualify as a display
of athleticism.

Now before you attack me, yes I know about the heat and G-forces drivers have to endure, and yes, I understand that there is a huge amount of physical strain when one is flying around a racetrack at 200 miles per hour, and a person has to be in a somewhat good physical condition to handle it. However, simply withstanding physical strain does not pass as athleticism in my book. Anybody can learn how to withstand pain. It’s a matter of will and doesn’t relate to pure athleticism whatsoever.

One apparent way to tell that racing is not a sport is if you take a look at some of the drivers. If you look at NASCAR drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., standing at six-foot-nothing and weighing 165 pounds, or Jimmie Johnson, standing at 5’11” and weighing 175 pounds, it would be hard to consider them athletes.

They are still in shape, don’t get me wrong, but being in shape and being a professional athlete are completely different levels of athleticism. These drivers do not compare at all to the 300-pound lineman who bench press 500 pounds in the NFL or the seven-footers in the NBA that bump their heads on the rim when they jump.

The fact is, that the majority of racecar drivers are fairly average when it comes to athleticism, but they’re still considered professional athletes because racing is viewed as a sport. But how can they still be considered “professional athletes” when their athleticism is not even on the same planet as other actual athletes?

Yes, there is a large amount of physical strain that racecar drivers go through when racing, but that doesn’t constitute crowning them athletes. The men and women in the cars are indeed skilled and in shape, but calling them athletes and what they do a sport is a stretch.