Every sport has a dark side that no one wants to talk about. Think of football, where everyone from the NFL pros down to Pop Warner try not to think about CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and its effects on brain function. Or horse racing, where tracks like Santa Anita constantly struggle to keep news of injured horses from making headlines.
NASCAR fits into the mix as one of the sports with the most skeletons in its closet. Unfortunately, that's simply a fact, given how many drivers have lost their lives over the years. But even in today's more safety-oriented races, the drivers have a lot of secrets they'd rather not discuss—from the physically disgusting elements of racing to the darker, shadier forces at work behind the scenes.
Keep scrolling for 15 dirty secrets NASCAR drivers don't want to share.
15 Rubber Pellets
One of the grossest things that NASCAR drivers just don't want to talk about—much less think about—is a necessary byproduct of the sport.
Goodyear reports that each NASCAR team goes through between 9 and 14 sets of tires per race! That means that the track is littered with the same kinds of black rubber pellets that many sports fields are made up of, and those little things get everywhere.
14 Those Hot Suits
NASCAR drivers wear their race suits as a means of protecting themselves in case of a wreck, which makes sense. But the suits also provide insulation during races, as well.
Accuweather describes the inside of a NASCAR race car as being about 40 degrees warmer than the weather outside, so on a 90-degree day, drivers will be sweating and panting inside their cars where it's about 130 degrees. Just imagine what those suits smell like afterward!
13 Weight Loss
The heat and stress of a NASCAR race obviously combine to create terrible conditions for any human to endure—but NASCAR drivers put up with it for extended periods of time. CBS Sports quotes Dale Earnhardt Jr. as claiming that most drivers lose about six to eight pounds of weight during the course of a race thanks to dehydration.
12 Gotta Go
While drivers are sweating up a storm inside their disgusting race suits, losing about six to eight pounds during the course of competition, they're getting seriously dehydrated. But still, what happens if nature calls? Well, they can't very well take a pit stop, so they just have to go inside their suits.
11 The Helmets
Most people don't think of NASCAR as a contact sport like football, hockey, or lacrosse, but the drivers definitely struggle with the violence of their profession.
They wear helmets to protect their heads and keep their vision clear, as well as using comms to speak with their crew. But those helmets only contribute to their heat problems and get just as gross as the rest of their outfits during the course of a race.
10 Fired Up
In most sports, the players have a spirit of brotherhood, even when they're fighting and battling to beat each other. But just like in any other extreme competition, tempers flare up in NASCAR—and certain drivers just don't like each other.
Bleacher Report claims that Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano got in a tiff when Harvick said that Logano's "wife wears the firesuit in the family and tells him what to do." Talk about a low blow.
9 Neck Workouts
Driving a race car is extremely strenuous on the entire body, but one of the main weak points that drivers have to work hard to strengthen is the neck. The picture above shows just one of the many neck exercises that drivers do on the regular to keep their heads in the right place as they crank around turns while experiencing extreme G-forces.
8 Eight Days A Week
Plenty of young kids grow up wanting to be a NASCAR driver—but they might change their mind once they understand how much a NASCAR driver works, both on and off the track.
The College Foundation of North Carolina attempts to dissuade dreamers from even trying to become NASCAR drivers, describing the life as one of hardship: "These drivers work seven days a week, taking part in press conferences, competing in races and preparing for more races. Long hours are the rule. Forget about having the weekend off."
7 The Rules
Outside of the physically disgusting elements of NASCAR, which are shared with plenty of other athletic endeavors, don't ask any drivers about some of their most closely-held secrets.
One of the biggest is that they all struggle with the rules, hating how NASCAR dictates their lives. They all want their teams to figure out little workarounds just to give Nascar fits.
Just like any sport, NASCAR has a long history of teams and competitors doing their very best to subvert the spirit of fair competition. Some of the stories coming out of NASCAR are just hilarious, though, even if they do reveal a darker side that most drivers won't want to discuss.
Popular Mechanics describes things almost like a tradition, describing how cheating in NASCAR goes all the way back to—literally—the very first race, when a Ford driven by Glenn Dunaway was discovered to have modified rear springs.
5 Willing To Go All The Way
One of the darker secrets that any NASCAR driver holds very close to their chest revolves around the dangers they face any time they go out on the track. Though things have gotten better in recent years thanks to improvements in safety, the simple truth is that drivers have to be willing to risk and sacrifice their lives to win in the sport they love.
4 Don't Need A Driver's License
One of the weirdest elements of NASCAR involves licensing for drivers. NASCAR drivers have to have NASCAR licenses—but they don't have to be legally allowed to drive on regular streets. How Stuff Works explains: "To drive in NASCAR's most basic racing circuits, you'll need a NASCAR driver's license. You can apply through NASCAR headquarters or through a local NASCAR-licensed track."
3 "Stock" Cars
By now, everyone should know this "secret" about NASCAR, but still, the drivers probably don't want people to understand it in its entirety. The car pictured above is a 2019 Ford Mustang NASCAR race car. Does it look like a Mustang? Maybe a tiny bit at the front end, sure. But there is absolutely nothing "stock" about that car, rest assured.
2 Pay To Play
Automotive racing of any kind—be it Formula 1, IndyCar, rally racing, or NASCAR—is extremely expensive, although NASCAR is one of the cheapest of the group.
Jalopnik reports that BK Racing had a budget of $1.5 million in 2015—and lost $10.1 million on the year! Compared to Ferrari's F1 budget of almost $500 million in 2013, that sounds a lot more reasonable, though.
1 Vinyl Stickers
NASCAR teams go to extreme lengths to create the illusion that they're racing with "stock" cars, but they also need to get their sponsors into the mix. But don't ask the drivers about the ways that sponsorship messes with their sport. In some cases, it even means that drivers who don't even win will end up making more money in a race than the winner!
Sources: The College Foundation of North Carolina, How Stuff Works, Jalopnik, Goodyear, and Wikipedia.