The only popular "sport" whose "athletes" routinely run the risk of killing or maiming themselves every time they participate. You can certainly argue that one stands a good chance of being killed by a fastball
to the head, or by a brutal, spine-crunching tackle, but auto racing is the only sport in America
which averages between 2 and 3 deaths per year. Not only that, but they do very little to prevent deaths, despite readily available (yet admittedly expensive) countermeasures
. Consider the death of Adam Petty
, a 19-year-old fourth-generation racer, killed during practice at the New Hampshire International Speedway
. He dies, and then TWO WEEKS LATER, in the EXACT SAME TURN, Kenny Irwin crashes and dies. It's absolutely ridiculous.
While I'm sure that a live event is much more captivating than television, I'm not sure I'd want to take the chance of being decapitated by a stray tire to find out (oh yes, spectators are at risk, too). It appears, though, that the race is a secondary event. It has the same feel as an airshow, where beer and tailgating take precedence. And I have yet to find a NASCAR fan who wouldn't love to see a forty lap caution flag if it was brought about by a horrendous crash. But who knows, check out an auto race sometime. You might just see some crazy lady try to stab Jeff Gordon because "he doesn't give the other racers a chance."
I have a hard time using the words "sport" and "auto racing" in the same sentence... despite what's written in the NASCAR node, racers are NOT athletes. There are certainly some racers who are athletes, but racing cars does not by default make you an athlete. Do they drive at breakneck speeds that would make some people cry in terror? Yes. Do they endure 100+ degree heat over several hours with almost no water? Yes. Must they have lightning fast reflexes to compete in the top races? Yes. But there's one big caveat to that:
The car does 99% of the work.
But it's up to the driver to steer the car... and you need the pit crew to refuel and change the tires and stuff... and the mechanics keep the car tuned up in top condition... Please. I've seen these guys get out of their cars after the race, and yes, they're sweating their balls off, but the car does the work. Let's say it again. The car does the work. With the exception of horse racing, there's no other "sport" in which the human has less of an impact.
Auto racing is by far the most technologically advanced "sport" in the world. I consider this to be a bad thing. At what point are the drivers removed all-together? I mean, you've got to have everyone on your team wired up the ass, and you've got to have the latest tweaks and trends applied to your car just to compete. At what point does a team develop technology advanced enough to remove the driver entirely and race the car remotely via computer. Then it's nothing more than a jacked-up version of that weird robot badminton exposition they hold every year.
As for being a sport, I've heard all sorts of arguments. Racing requires great athleticism. OK. Racing requires balls. OK. Have you ever seen how drenched in sweat they are after a race? OK. I'd like to see you do it! (My personal favorite argument.) I've seen a guy on Cops punch an officer in the face, hurdle four or five chain-link fences, sprint down the street, run through a house, vault over another fence, climb a tree, jump into the next yard, and then get subdued by five cops and a police dog. That guy had balls enough to punch a cop, athleticism enough to do all that running and jumping, was sweating like a pig when he got tossed in the cruiser, and he was definitely doing something that I could never do. But that doesn't necessarily make it a sport.