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Not just your normal Sunday drive

By Anthony Rhoads

Driving in NASCAR is easy, right?

You just get in the car, put the pedal to the metal and go.

That's one of the common misconceptions about NASCAR and it's one of the flawed reasons some folks give when they say that NASCAR drivers aren't athletes.

They think that just because our every-day driving takes very little physical exertion, then how difficult can competing in NASCAR be?

But NASCAR drivers have to deal with a lot of factors that the rest of us don't have to face when we get into a regular car.

First off, they are driving at high rates of speed. At a short track, they race about 90-120 mph and at the bigger tracks like Atlanta, they race at near 200 mph.

Then they have to deal with G-forces that are pulling their head, body and legs to the right ? just the opposite way he is trying to go. Plus they have to deal with the extreme heat inside the car n temperatures inside the cockpit average around 120 degrees.

Then they have to not only drive fast while dealing with G-forces and the heat but they have to drive several hundred miles in about three-and-a-half hours in a field of about 43 cars.

They have to have enough strength to maintain control of their cars, they have to have the alertness to keep from crashing into a wall or into another car and they have to have the stamina to complete a race.

And on top of that, they have to have nerves of steel.

If they don't have all those qualities, forget about it. They have to be at the top of their game and if they're not, they're going to hurt themselves or other drivers. They literally put their lives on the line every time they get into their cars and they have to be physically and mentally fit to meet the challenges of racing.

So are NASCAR drivers athletes? You bet.

One of the things a lot of folks might not realize is that many NASCAR drivers have been involved in other sports when they were younger.

Here is a glance at some of the drivers and what they've done in other sports:

Jeff Burton played several sports in high school.

Brendan Gaughan played basketball at Georgetown University.

Dale Jarrett played football, basketball, baseball and golf in high school. He was so good at golf he received a full scholarship offer to the University of South Carolina.

Sterling Marlin was team captain and an All-Mid State selection playing quarterback and linebacker at Spring Hill (Tenn.) High School. He also played basketball.

Kyle Petty played football and baseball in high school and was recruited by colleges in both sports.

Mike Skinner played football and baseball in high school.

Michael Waltrip is an accomplished distance runner and has competed in many prestigious races including the Boston Marathon. How many people can say they've competed in both the Daytona 500 and the Boston Marathon?

Anthony Rhoads is a sports writer for the Daily and his column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at arhoads@news-daily.com .