NASCAR is a hugely popular sport in the United States, especially among certain rural and southern regions. In 2013, NASCAR stopped reporting attendance estimates for races after seeing a high of 4,670,400 attendees in the 2005 season (over 129,000 per race). That’s big money and big stakes right there, and everyone from sponsors to endorsers to bettors wants to get involved.
But NASCAR can get pretty ugly. Besides all the individual personalities that make up the drivers, with their personal temperaments and habits, there are some things that racers can’t get away from—gross things. A NASCAR race is three hours, and during that time the driver can’t stop to go to the bathroom, can’t take a shower to clean off all that sweat . . . you see where this is going.
Let's check out 15 gross facts about NASCAR that you might regret knowing.
15 Getting Used To Other People Driving Off-Track
NASCAR driver Carl Edwards had an interview with Uproxx where he answered some of the questions that most people are too afraid to ask. One comment that isn’t necessarily gross, but annoying, is that he says he’s the worst backseat driver ever. Other people sometimes won’t drive with him, it’s so bad, but to keep his racing eligibility he has to be a driver’s license holder, which means forcing his friends and family to drive him around.
14 Having To Go In The Car
Many NASCAR racers have admitted that when they’re racing for hours, it’s inevitable that they will sometimes have to pee, and they won’t be opposed to handling their business right where they sit. It’s not like they can exactly stop the race to go #1, so remember that next time you get off the couch during a commercial break—race car drivers get no break.
13 Pre-Race Meal Prep
Carl Edwards told Uproxx that it’s important for him to ease up on the fluids and fiber before entering into a race (he said with a laugh). And the biggest thing for him is not introducing any new foods into his diet, because he doesn’t want any problems. As he says, “Having food poisoning in a race car is just about the worst thing ever.”
12 Sweating A Ton
Edwards says that one of the hardest parts about racing is how hot it gets, and therefore how much he sweats. On the plus side, he sweats out all the toxins in his body so rarely has to pee while racing, but the downside is that he literally loses about 5 to 10 pounds during a hot race! Drivers have to stay hydrated during a race, but also maintain a fine balance so they don’t have to pee all the time.
11 Really Loud And Stressful Environment
Being in a NASCAR race as a driver is nerve-wracking, adrenaline-pumping stuff. It’s grueling and can take a toll on drivers—enough to make your hair fall out! There are no creature comforts in a race car: no radio, no air conditioning, no adjustable seatbacks, etc. Edwards describes it to Uproxx: “The best way to describe it is when you get on a really fast, scary roller coaster that lasts two to three minutes, your heart rate will be up and you’ll be sweating. For us, it’s like that for three hours straight.”
10 Going Number Two
If you thought that having to release your bladder during a race was bad, get a load of this. We won’t get into the specifics too much, but there are some pretty iconic races where races have had to go #2 while racing, which is just about the grossest thing imaginable. For instance, Tony Stewart one time had to relieve himself mid-race, but he even ended up winning the race (2004 Sirius At The Glen). The announcer then went on to call it a “gutsy effort” despite needing new overalls, which is pretty hilarious.
9 No Swear Zone
This entry is about staving off a gross habit—NASCAR does not allow swearing at any of its venues, calling them family-friendly. Especially during media events and TV spots, if a driver ends up cursing on camera, they’ll be flagged and fined big time. They can even lose hard-earned Championship Points for swearing at events.
8 Dealing With Doctors
NASCAR drivers are not actually required to have state-issued driver’s licenses in order to race, but they do have to go through different steps to compete. They are expected to pass a physical examination and a drug test in order to get their NASCAR-issued “driver’s license,” which allows them to race.
7 Bad Tempers
Besides being renowned for “letting loose” when nature called during the 2004 Sirius race, Tony Stewart has also been called “NASCAR’s nastiest driver” by Rolling Stone, because of his penchant for hitting, kicking, and throwing things when things don’t go his way. He’s not the only temperamental NASCAR driver out there, of course, but he’s the most well-known.
6 Behaving Badly On- And Off-Track
Stewart has a rap sheet “longer than any active driver,” according to Rolling Stone’s Mike Guy. That includes chasing Matt Kenseth into the infield at Daytona, trying to climb into Brian Vickers’ car, tangling with other racers on the track, and just being an all-around jerk due to his on-track (and off-track) temper tantrums. He even “accidentally” ended Kevin Ward Jr.’s life when he hit the man with his car at a dirt track race, though no charges were filed.
5 Getting Into Fights
Not all NASCAR racers respect each other, which is a tragic truth that viewers have to understand. Many people like that tempers can flare during the midst of a race, and at times the races can become somewhat like an ice hockey game, with some of the top racers getting into fisticuffs for perceived slights like blocking a car on the track or intentionally trying to spin them out.
4 No Off Time Between Races
When NASCAR season is going, racers don’t have any time for rest and relaxation. It’s a seven-day-a-week job that brings them away from their families for days, sometimes months, at a time. There’s constant training and car modifications that need to be done, and drivers get zero days off. Being a NASCAR champion is about sacrificing all your creature comforts, even though it seems like an enviable job to have.
3 Throwing Water Or Champagne On Yourself
When a NASCAR driver wins a race, there’s definitely a reason to celebrate. That’s when the bubbly gets popped, the Gatorade cooler gets overturned on your head, and there’s a smile plastered on your face. But there’s also another reason to douse yourself in water, champagne, or colorful liquids after winning a race: it hides any telltale stains that might be blotching your overalls.
2 Excessive Heart Rate
Besides getting hot as the sun during a race (100-degree temperatures inside a car, and up to 170 on the floorboard), all that heat and adrenaline causes a driver’s heart rate to fire off while they’re racing. In fact, NASCAR drivers have been studied to show that their heart rates can reach up to 120 to 150 beats per minute, which is the same as a marathon runner. That’s part of the reason why drivers go to the gym to stay in shape, despite seemingly sitting the entire race—to keep a healthy heart!
1 Getting Targeted By Other Drivers
This is a pretty demeaning fact about NASCAR, that if you do too many things that people deem wrong, or ugly, or harmful, or cheating, then you might be putting a target on your back. There have been times when drivers get pitted against the wall during a race, and it isn’t just happenstance that they end up spinning out and losing the race—sometimes there’s a predicating action or moment that causes those drivers to get ousted.
References: uproxx.com, rollingstone.com, theplayerstribune.com, usatoday.com