It is simply unreal just how many myths can be found out there regarding people who get into big hunks of metal and carbon fiber and go speeding over 200 mph. I don't know why people need to make anything up about these sorts of people. I think what they do is already pretty extraordinary. Of course, to hear it from some, race car drivers don't even partake in a sport. They're not even athletes. Well, below such myths like that will be debunked.
In addition to debunking some pretty whacky myths about these nutty people who go at breakneck speeds in circles, over deserts, and around turns that are way too tight, we'll be looking at some pretty incredible truths regarding the profession as well. And don't worry, this doesn't just stick to NASCAR nor does it just focus on Formula 1 racing. Most of these myths and truths typically apply to racers in general.
I always knew that it was interesting to watch racing, seeing people go so fast and usually maintain such control, but it is also incredibly interesting to take a look at the ins and outs of the sport and to learn about just how ignorant some people can be about it. So, put the pedal to the metal and let's race through this car-ticle!
25 Not True - Women Can't Race In Saudi Arabia
Alright, I'm being a little sneaky here. It was true for a long time that women could not race at all in Saudi Arabia. I don't know why it really matters who is in the car, as long as it goes fast and gets across the line, but I'm not going to get into that stuff. Women weren't just allowed to race. They couldn't drive at all. But, as of this past summer, women can race all they want, and Aseel Al Hamad (above) was one of the first Saudi women to run an F1 circuit on the day the ban was lifted!
24 Not True - Racing Is Really Bad For The Environment
There are those who state that NASCAR alone goes through "216,000 gallons of racing fuel and tens of thousands of tires" each season. Sure. That is pretty much true, but the Super Bowl goes through enough electricity to power almost 1,500 homes for a whole year. Not to mention that the World Cup once put out over 2.7 million tons of CO2 while the Daytona 500 typically puts out maybe 15,000 tons. Sure, it's not good, but compared to what?
23 Truth - Drivers Go Faster Than Plane Take-Off Speeds
Yup, that's right. A plane needs to go (depending on the size and cargo) about 150-180 miles per hour in order to get off the ground. Well, a lot of racecar driver (but certainly not all) will go, on average, well over 200 mph. And they are very lucky that the cars are built the way they are because the force they experience keeps them shoved to the ground very tightly...unless a collision happens. And 200 miles per hour is not a speed anyone wants to collide with anything at, for sure.
22 Not True - Racers Get Paid The Biggest Bucks
Alright look, it is true that many race car drivers do get paid an incredible amount of money, but there are also many drivers out there who are just getting by and race in order to pay the bills. That's a real thing. Also, when looking at the reality of it all, the average racer earns not quite $40,000 per year. And these are people driving at breakneck speeds. Hulk Hogan is worth $25 million right now—how is that fair?
21 Truth - Racers Feet Can Get Burned Due To Hot Wheels!
Yeah, that is a pretty nutty truth right there. I think this probably happens more in NASCAR than anything else but it would not surprise me if that was a big deal in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as well. I mean, the machine is going for a pretty long run. At any rate, because of the amount of friction between the tires and the tarmac, there is a whole lot of heat being generated and coupled with the heat of the engine and the lack of A/C, racers can definitely burn their feet!
20 Not True - The Cars Do All The Work
Yeah, that is really not a thing at all. The intense amount of awareness that a race car driver must have when out on a run is incredible. The idea that some people have actually thought that it's just a matter of turning the wheel and pushing the gas and the car does the rest is just absurd. Remember, these people are steering tight turns at ridiculous speeds with several other cars only inches away. One wrong touch of the wheel and it's all over.
19 Truth - Dehydration Is A Serious Issue
So, here's the thing about hydration. It's a thing that really does happen while racing and there is still a big worry about dehydration while on the track. There is no air conditioning in the cars, there is an incredible amount of heat being generated by the tires and engine, and the protective gear being worn isn't exactly cool. So, drivers fix themselves up with hydration systems so they can drink (water) while driving and not have to worry about taking hands away from the wheel.
18 Truth - Racers Wet Themselves...Sometimes
To be totally honest, this is not something that happens all the time but given the fact that these drivers are just cramped into the silliest, hottest conditions possible, I'm sure they don't smell great at the end of a race anyway...so why not add to the aroma? See, the thing here is that they are constantly hydrating themselves while racing and they race for hours at a time. It can't all be sweated out, so some people fill their seats and empty their bladders.
17 Truth - Drivers Have Intense Heart Rates
Yeah, I might have a bit of an intense heart rate, as well, if I was racing around a slab of concrete at over 200 mph. Something about that might cause me stress. The average heart rate for a human is somewhere around 60 beats per minute, but a driver gets up to the limits of what a human can take without exploding their heart. That being said, when at rest, because of their physical conditioning, drivers resting heart rates are closer to 40 bpm. So it's safe to say they're pretty chill on their off time.
16 Not True - Drivers Are Comfy In The Car
There is no way that drivers are actually comfortable in the cars. Not for the most part, anyway. I mean, everything is pulled away to make sure that the cars are light (don't want any pesky drag going on there). And aside from that, they are cramped into a tiny space and strapped in tightly to make sure that they stay put even if the car doesn't. Add in the intense amount of heat making them sit in a pool of sweat with first degree burns on their feet and, well, I sure wouldn't be comfy.
15 Not True - Racing Is As Simple As Hitting The Gas
This is most certainly not the case. There are all sorts of things that have to be considered when entering a race. Teams have to make sure the safety harness is working, the hydration system is functional, the car is in top shape, and the pit crew is as fast as can be when changing tires (done in only seconds). And then once a driver is out there on the track, they have to consider the strategy of getting behind and around each opponent. This is not an easy job.
14 Not True - A Driver's License Is Needed To Race
This is actually quite hilarious to me. It turns out that one does not need to have a driving permit in order race professionally. One would think that must be illegal but it isn't, somehow. There have been several instances of young people winning races more than years before they even ever bothered to get their driving license. It sounds pretty nutty, but I guess because it's a contained space and the workings of racing are so different from street driving, it doesn't matter.
13 Truth - Audience Members Are Not Perfectly Safe...
This is definitely a truth and it was even more of a truth back in the day, for sure. There are still videos that people can find from racing archives of intense crashes where cars end up in the audience and that kind of thing does not end well. It happens far less often these days but it still can happen at any time. And then there is also accounting for natural phenomena. I mean, lightning is going to strike the highest place, and the fans are sitting up there in the stands (this has actually happened before).
12 Truth - NASCAR Has Never Had A Fan Fatality Because Of A Car Or Driver
Now, please pay attention to the wording above. NASCAR has never had a fan fatality because of a car or driver. I mean to say that from either one of the cars on the track or one of the drivers of said cars. That does not mean there has not been a fatality before in NASCAR. In fact, there was a lightning incident which occurred that led to the tragic loss of a fan during a race. I cannot imagine witnessing that, especially in a crowded space.
11 Not True - Fastest Car Means 1st Place
Here is a very important thing to remember about racing. It really is not just all about putting the pedal to the metal and then gunning it ahead of everyone. Whoever has the fastest car is not going to necessarily be the winner. They may not have started in first and their takeoff may not have been as successful as cars behind them. They might take corners too slow. There is a lot of strategy to winning a race. Much more, in fact, than people typically think.
10 Truth - G-Force Is A Heavy Issue
Yes, that was an intentional pun when I was saying that G-force is a heavy issue. It's because I think I'm funny. At any rate, g-force is a real pressure concern in racing. The average racer in F1 deals with 3 to 5 g and experiences forces near five times their own body weight. They even have to hold their breaths often when cornering because of the force. They must also keep tense, otherwise, they can't maintain blood flow and risk passing out!
9 Truth - Drivers Make Good Use Of Simulators
This is something that does really make perfect sense. I mean, no simulator is really going to be able to fully gauge the real feeling of shooting down the track, but it can still allow drivers to work on strategy and keep their instincts sharp. They're not going to feel the g-force that hits them in a real race and they are not actually going to have cars next to them, but they are able to plan and practice and that really counts.
8 Not True - Drivers Stay Sharp Playing Video Games
Yeah, this is really not a thing that happens. I'm sure that there are race car drivers out there who play video games (though I bet they mostly stay away from the racing games) but racing games do not have anything close enough to the right physics and dynamics to actually help a driver stay sharp in the off-season. That is just not something that is remotely accurate. And while I'm sure there are kids out there who started racing because of Forza or Gran Turismo, but those games won't actually help them on the track.
7 Truth - Drivers Are Much Safer Today
Do not get me wrong here, there are still many dangers for a racer on the track. The risks just can't be avoided when going at such speeds with so many people so close by. That being said, the way cars are set up now is much safer in terms of harnessing, hydration, and even just the build of the car itself takes safety into much greater consideration. Not to mention that the audience is typically far safer now too. Everyone wins, except for the drivers who don't come first.
6 Truth - Rapid Weight Loss...
This is actually a very nutty thing that really does happen when racers are shooting around the track. Remember, many races take place over a period of hours. Some can even go for 24 hours. Some even go for as long as days across a desert! There have been race car drivers out there who end up losing over 15 pounds per race. That is just staggering. And that is while they are still trying to hydrate purposefully. But while keeping so tense and sweating that much, racers are bound to drop some heft.
5 Not True - Drivers Are Perfectly Safe
Here is the thing. Drivers are much safer now than they have ever been. That much is at least true, and thankfully so. It is still very clear that a race car driver can never really be perfectly safe. It's not like people are actually buying the outcome of the game so drivers just fake how they pass and in what order they cross the line. They are trying to win. And in a big piece of metal or carbon fiber or fiberglass, bad things will happen sometimes.
4 Truth - Cheating Still Happens...Sometimes
Now, this is a thing that really does not happen nearly as much as people would probably like to think. At least not anymore. There was a time when people would just barely bend their rooftops or change up how some of the car lines sat to make it that much better. Some even would switch out engines or add little gadgets for a boost. But now, it is very hard to get past the regulations and inspections. It still happens, but barely.
3 Not True - Race Car Drivers Aren't Athletes
It is amazing that this ever got to be a myth in the first place. Sure, I get that people may think that all these guys do is sit in a comfy car, pop on the air conditioner, and then just put their foot to the floor as they speed to victory—but that is not even close to correct. These guys have to be in top shape to take on the G-forces of the speeds they're going and to stay conscious through hours of dehydration without any air conditioning to keep them cool.
2 Not True - All Racers Live Lives Of Luxury
This isn't entirely true and it might not even be half true. The number of race car drivers who still go out of their way to drive a normal car when they are not gunning down the track at over 200 mph is actually pretty incredible. I think a lot of racers just want to be calm and normal when they're not racing. There are a few glamorous ones out there, sure, but that is not the norm. I mean, Ayrton Senna drove a Ford Escort, for goodness' sake.
1 Truth - Women Win Races
Look, I'll be honest here. It might not happen all that often and it might be unusual anyway to see many women out there in the NASCAR circuit or riding out in the big Indy Car runs, but that is not the point here. The point is that women can and do place well in races and probably the biggest of any of those races was Danica Patrick's 2008 win in the Indy Japan 300, making her the very first and only woman to take first in an Indy Car series run.
Sources: Quora, Richmond, and NasaSpeed.