NASCAR is a sport that demands much from its drivers, not only in mental ability, but also physical fortitude. They have to possess lightning-quick reaction times, but they also need to be capable of withstanding the formidable force of inertia as they whip around corners at top speed. Passing out at such a crucial moment could spell disaster for both them and their fellow drivers.
But are NASCAR G-forces really that severe? Many people compare this form of racing to F1, but how similar are they really? There's actually a lot of nuance in all of this, so today, we're going to cover all the interesting facts about NASCAR G-forces.
When it comes to the number of G's a NASCAR driver has to endure during a race, it usually tops out at 3 G's maximum. However, drivers are more likely to endure somewhere between 2 and 3 G's during turns. This may sound like quite a bit, but it's not actually as extreme as one may think.
Believe it or not, there are dozens of rollercoasters around the world that impose higher G-forces on their riders. The tenth most extreme rollercoaster in the world in this regard, El Toro, imparts 4.4 G's of force onto its riders at one point. Some of the more extreme rollercoasters in the world impart more than 6 G's.
The reason why NASCAR drivers endure so few G's, relatively speaking, is because of the nature of the circuit. While NASCAR drivers go quite fast (up to 200 MPH!), they only ever have to bank in one direction, and the turn is, relative to things like rollercoasters and F1, not that sharp.
Speed is an important part of G-forces felt by a human being, but of more influence is the suddenness of turns and how sharp those turns are. In fact, even the world's fastest rollercoaster is only 150 MPH, but it still imparts more than 2 or 3 G's. It's the sudden shift in direction that influences G's felt moreso than speed.
This is why NASCAR drivers "only" endure 2 to 3 G's throughout a race. They may go fast, but the turns they have to take are, relatively speaking, fairly tame. However, this is not to say that their physical fortitude isn't impressive. After all, there is one aspect of NASCAR that makes 2 to 3 G's a much bigger deal.
Three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and the fact that NASCAR races are very long. Of course, there are different cup races with different lengths, but even races on the shorter side tend to last around three hours. That's no small amount of time for the audience, but imagine how it is for the racers!
It's true that rollercoasters and F1 often impart more G's on a person than NASCAR does, but the difference is, you will generally not endure those G's for a very long time. An intense rollercoaster might put you through 6 G's at some point, but probably only for a few seconds at most.
Likewise, F1 racing has many intense turns, but the races don't last nearly as long as their NASCAR counterparts. This being the case, NASCAR racers might not have to endure as many G's at any one time, but they do have to endure consistent G's over a very long period of time.
Needless to say, there are a lot of lateral G-forces involved in NASCAR, and it can be even worse if the drivers are on a high-banked track. Needless to say, having to make turns at 150+ MPH, with your body angled at 15 to 35 degrees for three or four hours is very taxing. It's also why neck strain is such a huge issue for NASCAR drivers.
Having to keep your head up and on the swivel during all of that over the course of several hours is tough on anyone. This is why the endurance of NASCAR drivers is still very impressive: they may not endure as many G's as F1 drivers, but they have to endure the pressure of constant G's for much longer, like a marathon compared to a sprint.
It might sound a little silly at first, but if you think about it for a second, this will actually make sense: NASCAR drivers prepare for the incredible strain of their races by training their necks. After all, if you want a muscle to be more capable of handling stress, the answer is simply to train it up, right?
NASCAR drivers have a lot of specific exercises tailored to the strengthening of their neck muscles, so they can better endure the stress said necks have to go through. People don't often think about training their neck muscles of all things, but it's no different than training up any other muscle. You just have to be a lot more careful about it.
Of course, it's doubtful that any amount of training would fully negate the strain of continuous G's over the course of several hours. NASCAR drivers still come out of the ordeal with pretty stiff necks, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. They really do have to go through a lot!
Ultimately, NASCAR G-forces aren't really that extreme, relatively speaking. However, the drivers do have to endure 2-3 G-forces for several hours during their races, which is incredibly impressive and requires a lot of special training to ensure that their necks are up to snuff.
They may not have to deal with the same level of G-forces that F1 racers have to, but few professions require you to endure G's for several hours on end, so NASCAR drivers deserve to be praised for that impressive physical endurance that few other people can lay claim to.