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Race Car Drivers Not Just Athletes, But Some of the Best Athletes?

Race Car Drivers Not Just Athletes, But Some of the Best Athletes?

Anyone involved in racing (from driving to commentating to watching on the couch) has heard the argument that drivers aren’t athletes.

“They just sit in the car for four hours and turn left,” is a common refrain from the naysayers. Even former Pro Bowl Quarterback Donovan McNabb agreed. (Of course, he didn’t realize games in his own sport could end in a tie.)

Drivers, in turn, have spent the last 10-15 years dispelling the myth, none more so than seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson. JJ drove 400 miles in Richmond Saturday night (finishing 12th) then finished the Boston Marathon Monday morning in 3:09:07, good enough to qualify him again if he wants.

“I’ve loved the experience and enjoyed all the pain and suffering that comes with it,” Johnson told the Associated Press.

And can we recognize for a second that he did this in-season?

Anyone in the loop knows that Johnson has become a training freak over the past few years, running a half marathon during Daytona Speedweeks this year, competing in triathlons, and being part of a group of dozens in the NASCAR garage who cycle both on the road and in the mountains. What people might not put together is just how rampant the desire for fitness is in the racing community.

Let’s take a look at some of the non-racing feats of racers in NASCAR and INDYCAR:

  • Michael Waltrip: In 2000, he ran the Boston Marathon less than 24 hours after racing at Talladega Superspeedway
  • Landon Cassill: In 2015, he drove the Kentucky 300 at Kentucky Motor Speedway Friday evening, flew to Indiana for Saturday morning’s 70.3 Ironman race (finished 7th), then flew back to Kentucky to drive the Quaker State 400 that same night. He also completed the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship that same year.
  • Tony Kanaan: The 17-year INDYCAR veteran has been doing triathlons since before he was racing Indy cars, and he’s completed the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii
  • American Ninja Warrior: NASCAR drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ryan Blaney and Ben Kennedy; and INDYCAR drivers Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden, Kanaan, Helio Castroneves, and Conor Daly have all competed on the show with Stenhouse pacing the group, making it to the fourth obstacle.

The list goes on and on, but Jimmie Johnson’s exploits put the nail in the coffin for arguments made by McNabb and many others through the years.

About the author

The Texas Motor Speedway Media Relations Department is located on the 6th floor of The Speedway Club outside of Turn 1 of the speedway. 

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