Just picture a pro basketball game being played outside in the middle of the summer, with long sleeves and sweat pants. Did we forget to mention there are no stoppages during the game?
Sounds crazy, right? Well, NASCAR drivers compete in those conditions on a weekly basis.
Chicago is known for its major pro sports teams: the Bulls, the Bears, the Cubs, and White Sox, and the Blackhawks. But this weekend something new will be rolling through the city—quite literally.
Yes, the NASCAR Cup series will be racing on the streets of downtown Chicago. And before you non-racing fans say, "Oh, that's nothing compared to what other pro athletes go through to train and all that." Just know that you're wrong.
Those who will be lucky to attend Sunday's Grant Park 220, will appreciate all the sound, speed, and everything else happening, but they probably won't actually grasp the physical and mental stress that the 37 drivers will actually go through.
A research team with members from the University of Florida and Michigan State University is working closely with NASCAR to help better understand what the drivers will be going through on the track. Both physically and mentally.
Through their studies, they have learned that professional racers need extraordinary physical and mental stamina to compete in NASCAR, IndyCar, and Formula One. It also shows how similar "the metabolic demands of auto racing" are to basketball.
The major difference is that those drivers are in full-body safety gear while driving in a glorified heat box for hours at a time. Meanwhile, basketball players play in an indoor arena, that is usually air-conditioned.
The physical activity needed to drive any form of a race car is greater than most people think. You aren't out here racing a car you would be driving down the road.
The hours and work it takes to prepare for a race is draining enough, so sometimes you wonder how these drivers are able to make it to Sunday. Well, just watch defending cup series champion Joey Logano's workout routine from 2018.
— Autoblog (@therealautoblog) June 18, 2018
Former IndyCar and NASCAR driver Dario Franchiti was famously interviewed in 2012 about how tough it is to drive a race car.
"There's tremendous kickback through the steering wheel," Franchitti said, at a time when power steering wasn't useable. "So every movement of the wheel requires a lot of energy."
If you think the steering isn't straining enough, think of how much force it takes in braking. Especially if you have to mash the brakes during a crash. The number of G-forces in a race car can only rival that of what it feels like to be a fighter pilot.
How many g-forces is James Harden going to travel his way through during a game?
That is why race-car drivers undertake rigorous training to strengthen key muscles. That includes the neck, upper body, and legs, while also improving their cardiovascular fitness.
Race car driver training. Strong neck, core, hip flexors, shoulders, arms n grip strength. That?s my boy ?@DevlinDeFran? putting in the work #train #workout #racecar #f1 goals #fit #kid #strong #determination pic.twitter.com/vkAPJX7kgq
— Zullo Health&Fitness (phil zullo) (@zhfgroup) November 18, 2019
It takes a lot more than just jumping behind the wheel to be a race-car driver.
For those that think the major sports are tougher than NASCAR or any form of auto racing, try playing a basketball game for 12 hours—or why not 24 hours? Racing takes a lot more physical and mental energy than a two-hour or so basketball game.
Those sports are difficult on the body and mind, yes, but you can't sit there and say NASCAR isn't tough.
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