NASCAR is one of the biggest sports in the United States, with between 2 to 4 million people tuning in to watch every race. It might not be as popular as team sports such as football, baseball, or basketball, but it has carved out a niche of dedicated viewers all over the country. The sport also attracts people from all walks of life, with widely varying demographics watching every race. It isn’t just about driving around in ovals—people who watch NASCAR know that.
There are also tons of myths about NASCAR that aren’t substantiated by facts. Usually, people who dislike NASCAR or rag on the viewer base are the ones spouting off the myths and making things up. We’re here to debunk those myths, and show that people have some wrong, outdated ideas about NASCAR that don’t deserve to be believed any longer.
These are 20 NASCAR myths that are completely untrue.
20 NASCAR Drivers Aren’t Really Athletes
You always hear people, usually anti-NASCAR people, say that NASCAR drivers aren’t athletes. NHL wide receiver Golden Tate once said of Jimmie Johnson on Twitter, “I’ve driven a car on unknown roads at night at 90 mph no big deal. No sign of athleticism.”
But with the massively increased heart rate that comes with racing, the 110-degree heat inside a car, the quick reflexes—drivers have to be in great shape to do all of this, and they especially have to have excellent cardiovascular health.
19 NASCAR Isn’t A Sport
When you hear that NASCAR drivers aren’t athletes, the next sentence is usually, “And NASCAR isn’t a sport, because they just drive around in circles.” By definition, though, a “sport” is “a contest or game in which people do certain physical activities to a specific set of rules and compete against each other.” Therefore, like bowling or table tennis, NASCAR is a sport.
Tony Stewart once told Autoweek, “It’s not the same as a football player or basketball player… but there is a very huge physical aspect to it that people don’t see.”
18 NASCAR Is Quintessentially Southern
This derogatory phrase, that NASCAR is only for rednecks, Southerners, and hillbillies, is untrue. There’s even an abbreviation that says NASCAR stands for “Non Athletic Sport Centered Around Rednecks.” While the sport was born in the South, according to Nielsen Scarborough, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington are among the top 10 markets for NASCAR fans. New York leads the way with 2.6 million fans!
Also, in 2014’s Daytona 500, nine out of 43 drivers were from California, whereas only three were from North Carolina.
17 NASCAR Ruins The Environment
NASCAR cars burn a lot of gas and rubber, that’s indisputable. Every racing season, about 216,000 gallons of racing fuel and tens of thousands of tires are used. But the 2014 World Cup emitted 2.72 million tons of carbon dioxide, and the 2012 Superbowl used enough megawatt-hours of power (15,000) to power 1,400 homes—so all sports are at fault here. And NACAR has been going greener every year.
The NASCAR Green Project has recycled over 25 million bottles and cans, over 700,000 tires, and enough oil to power the Empire State Building. Individual racing teams have also gotten into environmentalism—Roush Fenway Racing recycles 96% of every race car it builds, for instance.
16 NASCAR Was Betting In The “Old Days”
This is a matter of opinion that has no facts to back it up. NASCAR might have had more recognizable faces “in the old days,” but the cars are faster, meaner, and more aggressive than ever these days.
In 1970, 18 races were decided by winners who lapped the entire field… not very fun. In 2014, there was an average of 11 different leaders and 21 lead changes per race! So it’s much more exciting now than it’s ever been before.
15 NASCAR Drivers Cheat All The Time
There have been a few infamous drivers, such as Smokey Yunick, who have always tried to find loopholes and cheat the system. The league definitely has a history of cheating, but they’ve learned to crack down heavily on cheaters these days.
It’s much less common these days, because the penalties are so severe: losing massive points that practically ruin a driver's season, disqualification from future races, fines beyond six figures, etc.
14 NASCAR Is Only For Dumb People
This is another derogatory NASCAR myth that is aimed at its fan base. The fans of NASCAR are chastised more than fans of any other sport. But most of those fans are hardworking Americans who enjoy the pastime.
Also, NASCAR racing is a science—many crew chiefs have engineering degrees, and aerodynamicists are some of the smartest scientists around. Drivers are well-educated, knowing every inch about their car, and, heck, even cheaters are pretty clever with the ways they come up with finding loopholes!
13 The Fastest Car Always Wins
This simply isn’t true. NASCAR is a sport and a science, and although all cars are technically created equal, there is plenty of room for human error (and human achievement), obviously. Many of the races depend a whole lot on chance and timing a move at the right time. It can be difficult to gauge certain tracks, which is why drivers form strategies and do warm-up laps prior to most races. Drivers have to be able to make split-second decisions, which can mean the difference between winning and losing.
12 There Is Going To Be A Trump Speedway Track
For a long time, it seemed that Trump (before he was President) was going to build a track, but that seems less likely these days. He inked a deal in 1999 with NASCAR President William J. France to build a major speedway in the Catskills, New Jersey, or Connecticut, and it was supposed to be “the tallest building in the world sideways.” That plan has since fallen through (you could say that he has more important things on his mind these days), and many fans still think Trump owes fans a race track.
11 Rise In Safety Measures = Safer Driving
This is unfortunately false. The fatal accident of Dale Earnhardt Sr. gave rise to many increases in safety measures, such as the HANS device, and SAFER (steel and foam energy reduction) barriers. But despite all the safety measures (or perhaps in spite of them), it turns out that the increase in reckless behavior from drivers has increased by 4% since that time.
A doctor, Dr. Peltzman, theorized that people tend to do more dangerous things when there’s a perceived increase in safety, and that sort of makes sense.
10 NASCAR Is Going Out Of Business
Don’t listen to the naysayers—NASCAR is booming. Many writers have written that NASCAR is on the decline—attendance is down and the last Daytona 500 drew in a 5.1 rating by Nielsen, which was its lowest ever. But other sports have also been hit by the same issues, and this isn’t the first time NASCAR has had to deal with it.
Ratings are still solid, with millions tuning in to each race. Bettors and bookies still spend millions on the races. NASCAR is embracing new and fresh talent to draw in a younger crowd. The crazy number of sponsors alone means that the sport will continue far into the future.
9 The Winners Make The Most Money
Just like how the fastest car doesn’t always win, the winners also don’t always make the most money. The myth seems logical, that the winner of a race should get the biggest purse. They get the bragging rights, for sure, but sometimes the guy in 2nd or 5th place earns more than the winner, because of key sponsorship deals and the celebrity status of the driver.
Jeff Gordon, for instance, will make more than Kurt Busch—despite who wins the race—purely on Gordon’s status alone.
8 It’s Hard To Join NASCAR
Actually, it’s surprisingly easy to become a NASCAR driver. Many sports take years of dedicated practice and play—such as NFL players, who played in college (or at least high school) and probably since they were kids. But all you have to do here is gain a reputation by winning some races on the junior circuit, then apply for a Touring Series, which can lead to a bigger jump to the main roster. This is why so many offspring of superstar drivers are in NASCAR today. The biggest issue is finding the right sponsors and connections for your car.
7 There’s Lots Of Swearing And Road Rage
In real life, yes, road rage is a huge problem. And you’ll see the occasion fight break out on the tarmac at a NASCAR event, but those are exceedingly rare and usually make headlines because of their rarity.
The truth is, NASCAR prohibits cursing and swearing, and will even fine drivers for it. NASCAR doesn’t want to get hit by the FCC for someone cussing on live television, so they keep it close to the chest on this one—drivers have to have clean mouths.
6 Drivers Always Use The Same Car
Many drivers’ cars become almost as iconic and famous as the drivers themselves, such as Jeff Gordon’s rainbow-colored #24 car. But a typical NASCAR vehicle gets more use in a single day than most cars do in a year. The biggest stars have a few copies of the same model ready for each event, especially in case something goes wrong with their original. Many racers, even rookies sometimes completely overhaul their cars between races.
5 NASCAR And F1 Are The Same
This couldn’t be further from the truth, and it drives fans of both sports crazy. The Daytona 500 and Indy 500, for instance, are incredibly different, as any racer will tell you.
The cars are nothing alike, the dynamics are different, and the rules are even different. NASCAR tracks are generally much longer, while F1 tracks are much curvier and have more hard turns without straightaways. There’s also a huge rivalry between the two organizations.
4 There Are Penalties For Off-Track Issues
There probably should be more severe penalties for NASCAR drivers who get in trouble off the track, but that’s not really the case. In sports such as football, if an athlete is arrested, they’re usually in big trouble and can even get cut by the team (just look at the recent debacle with Antonio Brown).
But NASCAR has no real rules to penalize off-track issues. Sure, drivers can get vehicular infractions, or fines for cheating. A good example is Scott Wimmer, who lost his license in 2004, but was still allowed to compete in the Daytona 500 that year.
3 NASCAR Is Cheaper Than Other Sports
This is a load of bologna. Most NASCAR vehicles cost around $400,000 per WEEK to sponsor. Sponsorships are huge, and endorsements deal with millions of dollars changing hands. Plus, there’s the overhead of the massive stadiums.
The 12 top-earning drivers in 2017 made a combined $155 million in prize money, salaries, and endorsements. That’s big money. Jimmie Johnson made $17.5 million in 2018, according to Forbes, from his salary, cut of winnings, and licensing.
2 It’s A “White Male Only” Sport
There’s a disbelief that people who aren’t white, and women, don’t like NASCAR. But demographics show that females make up a large part of NASCAR’s fan base—upwards of 40%! And while only seven black drivers have ever competed at NASCAR’s top level, the Drive for Diversity (D4D) is a program working to change that.
Also, the rise of female drivers such as Danica Patrick helped get younger women and girls into the sport. NASCAR is not “just a guy thing,” by any means.
1 You Need A License
Remember how we said how easy it is to become a NASCAR driver? Well, there are actually drivers on the tracks who don’t even own street licenses, and that’s perfectly legal! Some of them are too young.
You do not need to possess a legal driver’s license to race in NASCAR, you just have to be able to prove you can handle the pressures of the track. Many NASCAR drivers would be in big trouble if they were pulled over on the streets, because they wouldn’t have a license to show the cop!
References: washingtonpost.com, wikipedia.com, thenewswheel.com, nesn.com