For years there has been the debate of whether or not NASCAR drivers are athletes. Most people say that all they do is sit in a car and make left turns so there's no way they could even be considered an athlete. (Or some people such as @swoleome think that if NASCAR drivers are considered athletes then knowing how to drive makes him an athlete. Sorry bud but that's not how it works.) To each his own I guess, but I'm about to explain why I believe NASCAR drivers are, in fact, athletes.

Carl Edwards former NASCAR driver cover of the ESPN body issue in 2009

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary an athlete is described as, "a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina." NASCAR is considered to be a sport and the drivers are trained to do this sport; we've taken care of the "trained or skilled in a sport" part. Now here comes the hard part, some people don't think that being a NASCAR driver requires physical strength, agility, or stamina. Let's pick this apart.

Physical Strength. My first thought when I think about physical strength is the ability to lift heavy weights, but that's not exactly the physical strength needed in NASCAR. In order to be successful, drivers need to be in good physical health. Within the past few seasons the team owners have put their drivers on a strict health regimen consisting of healthy eating and extensive exercise. Most of the drivers (and pit crews) do regular exercises such as CrossFit, lifting weights, and different forms of cardio at the gym. Several drivers such as Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, Justin Allgaier, Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray, and quite a few pit crew members have even started cycling groups to stay active and fit.

Cycling at Daytona International Speedway

Couldn't help myself. I just love Cars so much.

Agility. Driving a racecar takes more agility and coordination than you realize. You must be able to steer, accelerate and decelerate, shift, read the gauges, listen to your spotter, and talk to your crew chief all at the same time. I can barely talk on the phone while walking down a flight of stairs without falling so I can only imagine what the drivers are going through. Unless you are agile you won’t be making it more than 20 laps in the race. You need quick reflexes to make it through the hairy restarts and to navigate through the wrecks with minimum damage.

Stamina. I feel like stamina is the most important part. The drivers are in the cars for practice tests during the week, practice and qualifying usually the day before the race, and then for 3 hours during race day. When you go on a road trip and all you do is sit in the car all day once you get to your destination you’re tired aren’t you? All you’ve done is sit but some how you are completely exhausted by the end of the day. Imagine how the drivers feel. Their cars don’t have air conditioning like ours do. The fire suits add even more heat. The inside of the race car gets hot. I mean really hot, like upwards of 120 degrees. It’s usually about 30-40 degrees hotter in the car than the outside temperature. So while we're sitting in the grandstands complaining about the 90 degree weather it could be 130 degrees inside the cars. The drivers sweat so much during the race that some drivers have even lost 10 pounds during a race. If that doesn't require stamina then I don't know what does.

You can see the sweat and exhaustion on Dale Earnhardt Jr's face.

With breaking down the definition of an athlete I have convinced myself (and hopefully some of you) that NASCAR drivers are indeed athletes. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

XOXO @hellsbelle 🖤