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February 17, 2013 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Danica Patrick is the first woman to qualify for the Daytona 500 pole position, or any other Nascar Cup race.
posted by Ardiril (202 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is there any physical factor preventing a woman from being the fastest driver (in a way similar to men running/lifting more than women), or is it entirely a cultural thing?
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 1:15 PM on February 17, 2013


She probably has a slight advantage because she may weigh less than most other drivers. Every pound you can shave off the car and driver helps.
posted by MrBobaFett at 1:18 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Still...

WOOT! Go Danica!

(Father of two daughters, who does not even like racing)
posted by 4ster at 1:21 PM on February 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


Is there any physical factor - Any answer to this would be specific to Danica or speculation since she is the first woman to reach this point. I doubt anyone has done any peer reviewed study of the issue.
posted by Ardiril at 1:24 PM on February 17, 2013


Mostly a cultural thing but driving a race car is very physically demanding so men being stronger and having higher endurance are at an advantage. A lot of professional drivers are pretty small so it's debatable how much of an advantage women, especially women strong enough to handle the car, would have.
posted by Mitheral at 1:24 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there any physical factor preventing a woman from being the fastest driver (in a way similar to men running/lifting more than women), or is it entirely a cultural thing?

There's more endurance to auto racing than people think (seriously, drive 500 miles and see if you don't feel knackered -- now imagine that the entire drive is actually alongside people who don't want you to pass, instead of just feeling like it is).

There are also those who think that women's generally better spatial reasoning might give them an advantage.

But for the most part, it's cultural.
posted by Etrigan at 1:25 PM on February 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


She probably has a slight advantage because she may weigh less than most other drivers.

NASCAR has a minimum weight rule which includes the driver and the car. If her car came below that weight (with her in it) additional weight would be added to make it comply.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:26 PM on February 17, 2013 [11 favorites]


Yeah, weight might give a very slight advantage. Let's say she weighs 40 pounds less than random male driver. The current NASCAR cars weigh ~3450 pounds, plus driver and gas and so on. So thats about a 1% weight reduction. (By comparison, racehorses weigh more like 1000-1400 pounds, so it would be more like 4%, which is why this matters more for jockeys). As you say, every pound helps, but skill / endurance is certainly a much much bigger factor.

But really the pool of women drivers competing is just so very small that there's not enough data to know generically how women vs men perform. And that is almost certainly a cultural thing, men are far more likely to be into racing, at least in the US.
posted by wildcrdj at 1:27 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


She probably has a slight advantage because she may weigh less than most other drivers. Every pound you can shave off the car and driver helps.

On the other hand, upper body strength and musculature does apparently matter more than you'd think. It's not like driving your Corolla down to the 7-11. But we're talking about one person here not a whole population so I don't think it's possible to say with any certainty.

There are also those who think that women's generally better spatial reasoning might give them an advantage.

What? Isn't it supposed to be me who have better spatial reasoning?
posted by Justinian at 1:28 PM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought the cars were ballasted to a certain weight with driver, eliminating any advantage, but I certainly might be confused and I'm having trouble finding the information online.
posted by ftm at 1:28 PM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am told it's physically exhausting to drive those cars because there's no power steering in them, so strength is a factor.

I used to work with a reporter who once got this hilarious love letter to Danica Patrick. This guy figured everyone working in sports has to have access to her contact information. I so badly wanted to reply to him, but figured that would get me fired. I wanted to post the letter on the internet, but figured that would get me fired.

It hung in this guy's cube for years, but then he had to move to a new area and it didn't survive the move. Whenever I had to work on his PC I'd read that love letter to Danica Patrick over and over again (beat watching progress bars).

I always wondered if he ever got to finally meet her.

Also, good on her!
posted by cjorgensen at 1:28 PM on February 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


"There's nothing more deadly or more proficient then a happy fighter." - Mike Tyson
posted by phaedon at 1:29 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Good for her! I wish she was still in Indycar and don't know why she does those stupid GoDaddy ads but whatev. Congrats. It will be a treat to see a woman win a NASCAR race.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 1:33 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


RE Weight limits: It varies by series/sanctioning body. There was a bit of flap about this when Danica got on the grid for the Indianapolis 500 because IRL weight limits are without driver and NASCAR are with driver.
posted by Mitheral at 1:33 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


They do ballast to a minimum weight with driver in NASCAR. But being lighter is still an advantage because you can place the lead ballast very low and to one side on the car to make it handle better on turns and stuff. So you're both right.

A quick perusal of the stats on the qualifiers for the Daytona says that Patrick is considerably more than 40 pounds lighter than most of the male racers. She's like 100 pounds while a lot of the male racers are 160, 170, or even 200 pounds.

So again I don't think we have any idea whether her physical body size and weight is a net advantage, disadvantage, or what. My guess is that if she drives the best she'll win, and if she doesn't drive the best she'll lose. But maybe I'm crazy.
posted by Justinian at 1:35 PM on February 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


I wouldn't get in a boxing ring with her.
posted by Ardiril at 1:38 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


and don't know why she does those stupid GoDaddy ads but whatev

GoDaddy sponsors her car. She drives the #10 GoDaddy.com car. So she does the ads because $$$.
posted by Justinian at 1:39 PM on February 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


A couple of potential disadvantages come to mind. First it is my understanding that a key to winning is your relationship with other drivers. Specifically one must be able to form temporary drafting partnerships on the track to maximize fuel economy. NASCAR drivers may exhibit some gender bias in their choice of drafting partners. The second is that there may be some slight impacts on reaction time and choice behavior from various hormones such as testosterone. Of course other gender specific or individual characteristics could affect her odds favorably and offset any potential disadvantage from these two items.
posted by humanfont at 1:39 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Specifically one must be able to form temporary drafting partnerships on the track to maximize fuel economy.

Not really a factor when you're talking about getting the pole position, as you're the only one racing at the time.

I think in part it has to do with the law of averages - there were 13 different winners last year in 39 races. There were 63 total drivers who raced last year, putting the odds of winning a race around 1:5 for each driver.

Now, that's not accounting for the fact that the top 6 racers won 24 of the races. Plus there are teams that are much more dominant as a unit. Point being, I don't think it's anything to do with Danica's gender, so much as it is being one of many drivers and, if you're not elite, you're not likely to win very often.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 2:03 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


GoDaddy sponsors her car. She drives the #10 GoDaddy.com car. So she does the ads because $$$.

You mean those Superbowl commercials where scantily clad women do little more than act like strippers? Very enlightening. Oh yeah, $$$.
posted by phaedon at 2:05 PM on February 17, 2013


I don't understand this, the article seems to contradict the post?
Prior to Sunday, there had been just two Coors Light Poles earned by a woman, Patrick last year at Daytona and
Could someone explain why last years pole didn't count?
posted by smidgen at 2:06 PM on February 17, 2013


smidgen...Coors sponsors the pole-position winner at all NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide races. I believe Danica won the pole for the Nationwide Series race last year. This is the Sprint Cup race...the "senior" division.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:10 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Could someone explain why last years pole didn't count?

Sprint Cup.
posted by phaedon at 2:11 PM on February 17, 2013


Those were in the Nationwide Series, the lower NASCAR division.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:13 PM on February 17, 2013


Good on her, though I wouldn't put serious money on her following through with a victory as qualifying on the big ovals often doesn't translate to serious race pace (ie: one qualifying lap is 2.5 miles which requires a different set-up approach than running 500 miles). That said, the Daytona 500 is known for its unlikely winners ... so truly, anything could happen.

Bet it's good for the TV ratings.
posted by philip-random at 2:16 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


NASCAR has a minimum weight rule which includes the driver and the car. If her car came below that weight (with her in it) additional weight would be added to make it comply.

And more importantly, *every* car will be running at that minimum weight. If driver weight was a critical factor in success, teams would have selected for it. If her weight was such a dramatic factor in IndyCar, should would have won the title repeatedly.

More important is upper body strength, and doubly so neck strength, since your helmeted head is pulled to the outside of turns, and when you turn a car going 195, there is a lot of inertia wanting to keep your head moving in a straight line. In F1 cars, the turning forces are even higher, but the races are much shorter. In NASCAR, you're pounding around the track for hours at a time, in full nomex, with a large, heavy helmet on.

And note that cranial mass doesn't vary much with body size, but musculature does, and Patrick, being a rather small female, has much less musculature to build upper body and neck strength from.

In F1, driver size is an issue -- they build the car around the driver.

I am told it's physically exhausting to drive those cars because there's no power steering in them, so strength is a factor.

The steering ratio is much higher, as well, to allow quicker turns. Note how an F1 or Indy driver only rotates the wheel about 270 degrees, compared to the two plus full rotations on a passenger car. So, not only no power steering, but much less mechanical advantage.
posted by eriko at 2:18 PM on February 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


phaedon : You mean those Superbowl commercials where scantily clad women do little more than act like strippers?

GoDaddy sells internet domains and hosting. I'd say that makes for one of the most honest ads we've seen in a long, long time. :)
posted by pla at 2:26 PM on February 17, 2013


Ah, ok. Do drivers typically drive in the "AAA league" for a decade before making it to the majors? (to put it in terms I understand). Or do they pop back and forth regularly?
posted by smidgen at 2:26 PM on February 17, 2013


Bet it's good for the TV ratings.

I doubt her winning the pole will result in much of a bump (if any) in the ratings. Unlike series like F1, winning the pole at Daytona isn't a big advantage. Generally, the pole-sitter gets overhauled by the cars behind them within the first two laps or so.

Do drivers typically drive in the "AAA league" for a decade before making it to the majors? (to put it in terms I understand). Or do they pop back and forth regularly?

In NASCAR, the Sprint Cup drivers regularly also drive in the Nationwide races. This is as much to get fans to watch or buy tickets to the junior races as anything else.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:32 PM on February 17, 2013


Mistook the name initially for Danica McKellar and thought, wow, is there anything that woman can't do?
posted by IndigoJones at 2:47 PM on February 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


If Danica Patrick married Danica Stewart, they would be Danica Patrick-Stewart x2.
posted by Ardiril at 3:01 PM on February 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


*scurries off to write Danica Danica Patrick Stewart Patrick Stewart fanfic*
posted by zombieflanders at 3:11 PM on February 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


*gets vapors*
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:18 PM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it's men who are supposed to have the better spatial reasoning abilities (though I've heard hints of rumors that the gap might possibly be closing a bit).

So, I've heard people complain about her weighing less, as if this is some illicit advantage. But being stronger and having better endurance are advantages, and nobody thinks they're illicit...

I'd sure like to see her win.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 3:29 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there any physical factor preventing a woman from being the fastest driver

Yes, women are physically incapable of qualifying for the pole position at the Daytona 500.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:51 PM on February 17, 2013


Mitheral: Mostly a cultural thing but driving a race car is very physically demanding so men being stronger and having higher endurance are at an advantage.

I think women have higher pain thresholds and just as much endurance as any man. I hope she wins - ol' #43 will roll over in his grave.
posted by vonstadler at 3:53 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is no weight advantage for driver weight in NASCAR to speak of. Or they'd not be all such fat bastards (Tony Stewart I am looking at you). The cars are way, WAY too heavy for that to be much of an advantage - even by moving the extra ballast you can move it's not huge gains.

Is there any physical factor preventing a woman from being the fastest driver (in a way similar to men running/lifting more than women)

Yes, strength and stamina is more comparable to physical athletic sports than people realise. There is much more to maintaining the consistency of control that driving at the limit for an extended period (ie more than 5 minutes) demands than people realise. You need to maintain very delicate levels of control at relatively high loads on your arms and shoulders. Consider as an analogy one of those games where you put the ball around the maze (the plastic topped ones) but the thing weighs 40lbs and you'll hit a wall at 200mph if you get it wrong. Oh, and it's incredibly hot and you are wearing 3 layers of fireproof clothing and a crash helmet and the noise is deafening and someone is talking in your ear the whole time about the cars around you. It is way, way more physical and mentally draining than people realise and physical fatigue kills you mental ability pretty quickly. So even if you are smarter, you won't be by the mid way point if you're not at least as strong as anyone else.

Note how an F1 or Indy driver only rotates the wheel about 270 degrees

A formula car usually only has 270 degrees each way of lock total to give about 22 degrees of road wheel angle. In normal driving you'll rarely use any more than 90 degrees each direction unless you are at Monaco. NASCAR are geared lower (because sudden movements at those sorts of speeds are.. um... bad) but the loads are very very high because of the banking, the weight of the car and the geometry they run.
posted by Brockles at 3:54 PM on February 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


You mean those Superbowl commercials where scantily clad women do little more than act like strippers? Very enlightening. Oh yeah, $$$.

Patrick also did the SI Swimsuit Issue, so she isn't exactly shy about putting herself out there physcally.
posted by Justinian at 4:12 PM on February 17, 2013


ol' #43 will roll over in his grave

Ol' #43, Richard Petty, is still very much alive, and he is already quite put off by Danica's dating Ricky Stenhouse. It's all become a right soap opera, it has.
posted by Ardiril at 4:35 PM on February 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I hope she wins - ol' #43 will roll over in his grave.

Grave?
posted by TedW at 4:38 PM on February 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Damn, passed right at the finish line!
posted by TedW at 4:39 PM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


men being stronger and having higher endurance

Actually while men have greater short-term strength and power, women tend to have better long-term endurance than men.
posted by localroger at 4:39 PM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


There is much more to maintaining the consistency of control that driving at the limit for an extended period (ie more than 5 minutes) demands than people realise. You need to maintain very delicate levels of control at relatively high loads on your arms and shoulders.

I've had occasion to drive a high end kart, which in terms of power to rate ratio is apparently right up there with a high-end Formula car (maybe not F1, but close). I remember tracking the kart in front of me, slowly drawing closer over a series of laps. It's a very cool feeling -- that you've got it over the guy in front, you're catching him, he's yours. Except after a few laps, fatigue started to affect me. Nothing major, just a subtle mix of breathing not the best air, slightly spongy neck and shoulder muscles, etc. Suddenly, I wasn't nailing all my apexes anymore, hitting my braking points just so. Suddenly, I wasn't gaining anymore on the kart in front. He was holding even maybe a second in front. Then he was pulling away, ever so slowly. And there was nothing I could do about it. I may have had a faster kart, been an intuitively faster racer ... but he was stronger than me. He was keeping his lap times consistent while I was fading.

So yeah, strength, endurance, stamina -- these are huge factors in motor racing.
posted by philip-random at 4:59 PM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, women are physically incapable of qualifying for the pole position at the Daytona 500.

I know you're being cynical, but there is a reason I (and many others) are taking that time (and the one she did in testing last week) with a very, very heavy pinch of salt. While the standard metrics of fast drivers doesn't always translate to NASCAR, Danica has never been a stellar driver - solid and fairly fast, yes. Pole winner of one of the biggest races of the year fast? Not so much. She's top ten material at best and has consistently been so in every series she's raced in except for one single, largely fuel strategy-driven, race (Motegi in Indycar).

NASCAR seems to reward a vey narrow set of skills compared to more traditional racing (road racing). A NASCAR driver generally sucks outside their sport but also, weirdly, very talented road racers can struggle in NASCAR unless they are good in a very select few areas of the sport (Tony Stewart, AJ Allmendigner etc, where Montoya, Raikonnen and similar have not shone). It seems to me that Ovals reward a subset of driving skills, and NASCAR a subset of skills within that. It's a specialisation sport rather the more varied skills needed for road racing.

Now - and this is where I am most cynical about this - NASCAR has a very different method of timing to almost any other professional sport. Not only are there no transponders on the cars (so cars are not able to be timed by anyone other than NASCAR in the exact same way) but also there is no access to live timing feeds AT ALL. So no-one is able to tell if NASCAR is telling the truth with their timing. NASCAR is a cynical, marketing-driven, behemoth of an organisation and they tolerate nothing at all that damages the brand and encourage anything at all that promotes the ticket sales or viewing figures. It is the Vegas of the racing world as it stacks the decks in its favour as much as it possibly can. In every other sport, teams have access to the raw feed (in real time usually) from the transponder used by the track or the series. We are on the same feed as timing and scoring and there are NO grey areas.

It is a bit suspicious to me (and many others that I have seen and heard from within the industry and outside it) that so often do we see unusual people and/or sponsor combinations on pole positions at appropriate times. Driver A is having sponsor issues? Oh, Driver A gets on pole the next race and his sponsors are ecstatic! NASCAR is going to (steady midfield-running) driver B's home race this weekend and advance ticket sales are poor? DRIVER B GETS POLE! INCREDIBLE! YOU COULDN"T WRITE THIS STUFF!

/puke

Often these drivers are incapable of producing this pace outside qualifying, which is more than a little suspect. Usually they disappear towards the back of the field come race day right back to their usual average starting position. Danica herself qualified on pole for her first Nationwide race (Boy, did THAT drive media coverage up a couple of order of magnitude!!!! WHAT A SURPRISE) yet was completely unable to match a similar pace in the race. Like, not even close. Not even over one lap. This happens so often it is almost laughable, yet NASCAR refuses to allow teams the same kind of access to the timing and scoring system that other series deem routine in order to allow transparency to kill the rumours. NASCAR's control over its product is legendary, far reaching and unimpeachable.

So colour me very very surprised if Danica is a front runner come the race. I am prepared to be surprised (sooner or later she needs to show the talent to match her marketing pull), but she was not at all a front runner in Nationwide so for her to step up a level and suddenly set the world on fire (all of a sudden, when ratings are needed the most) smacks of NASCAR shenanigans to me.

Now maybe Danica has hit the perfect storm for her in that the new car suits her much better and that it now sits in the focus area of talent she has and the clouds are parting and the angels are singing and this is totally all in her stride, but that sort of jump in skill level has been hidden for a very, very long time if it is really there. If Danica kicks arse at the 500 I'll be genuinely happy for her but I would be surprised if she can maintain that show of speed into the race or (if she does) into the next few rounds. Anytime NASCAR produces a result that is such media gold, I have a really hard time believing it.
posted by Brockles at 4:59 PM on February 17, 2013 [33 favorites]


<>Actually while men have greater short-term strength and power, women tend to have better long-term endurance than men.

I've read that this is true but, if so, why would the women's world record marathon time not place in the top several thousand men's marathon times?
posted by Justinian at 5:05 PM on February 17, 2013


The latest NASCAR car designs feature more aeronautics -- more downforce from air moving over the car giving the car more traction or grip -- than previous iterations of NASCAR stock car designs. Patrick's experience in IRL where downforce is more of a factor may have given her an edge over many of her competitors.

Just a guess. Congrats to her either way.
posted by notyou at 5:06 PM on February 17, 2013


... men being stronger and having higher endurance ...

Women give birth, which involves multiple poundage humans moving through, then out, of her body. Men complain bitterly if they hurt themselves very slightly and temporarily opening a bottle of beer.
posted by Wordshore at 5:16 PM on February 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Brockles, I grew up in racing at dirt tracks, and my uncle managed one for a few years, so I know first hand that some of the sport's various marketing techniques are a bit underhanded.

However, not so coincidentally, a set-up for qualifying well is far different from a set-up that races well, and Daytona is one of those tracks where the various set-ups can be vastly different. Further, Patrick's sponsorship by GoDaddy has consistently been one of grabbing any headline within reach and throwing enough money at a situation to ensure that headline. A 6-figure bounty from GoDaddy if Danica poles would be enough for Stewart-Haas to throw their best engineers at her qualifying set-up.
posted by Ardiril at 5:17 PM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not only are there no transponders on the cars (so cars are not able to be timed by anyone other than NASCAR in the exact same way) but also there is no access to live timing feeds AT ALL.

What now? My inner F1 geek is wincing hard; Bernie suddenly seems very much like a lesser evil.
posted by jaduncan at 5:27 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wasn't intending to be cynical. It's the gender essentialism in the thread that's bothering me. Clearly women can compete at the elite level. Patrick is proof by ostention. It suggests that very few women become drivers because very few are encouraged to try.

The interesting thing to be explained here isn't how a woman was able to qualify so well but how a 100 pound human being was able to qualify so well. I'm reminded of Usain Bolt: obviously different body type and running style from his competition but it's clearly working out well for him. What does she do differently in training and competition I wonder.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:28 PM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


NASCAR seems to reward a vey narrow set of skills compared to more traditional racing (road racing). A NASCAR driver generally sucks outside their sport but also, weirdly, very talented road racers can struggle in NASCAR unless they are good in a very select few areas of the sport (Tony Stewart, AJ Allmendigner etc, where Montoya, Raikonnen and similar have not shone). It seems to me that Ovals reward a subset of driving skills, and NASCAR a subset of skills within that. It's a specialisation sport rather the more varied skills needed for road racing.

It strikes me that this would undermine what everyone has been saying about "Oh, well, it takes such strength, that's why there haven't been women in racing". As long as the skills NASCAR selects for don't include "tremendous upper body strength" (which, frankly, I doubt--NASCAR drivers are not exactly the fittest guys in sport), once you cross a certain requisite level of brute strength, being really good at going round NASCAR's corners or whatever is going to be more important than upper body strength.

I'm reminded of cricket. It's not unusual for women who play international cricket to play men's cricket, where men generally have a size/strength advantage. There's speculation that the England women's wicketkeeper will play second XI county cricket this summer (men who play international cricket play first XI county cricket). She's seemingly turned down a fairly high level Twenty20 match in the past on the grounds that she's more likely to be successful in a test match than Twenty20 because Twenty20 values power and her size would be a greater disadvantage in that context. Anyway, I guess my point is that different forms of a sport can select for different things, which can reduce the advantage men would have being generally bigger.
posted by hoyland at 5:33 PM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I found on Wikipedia that since 1962, the pole-sitter at the Daytona 500 has also won the race only nine times; that's a less than 20% chance over a period of 50 years. So, getting the pole certainly is an honor, and those who got it have tended to win a lot more than others, but it isn't really all that predictive. The gender of the driver is, of course, not a variable in those statistics (yet).
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 5:41 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually while men have greater short-term strength and power, women tend to have better long-term endurance than men.

I've read that this is true but, if so, why would the women's world record marathon time not place in the top several thousand men's marathon times?


The female body isn't optimized for speed; it's optimized for duration. Make marathons 200 miles long instead of 20 and get enough women interested in training for them and I'd wager major bucks the percentage of penis-bearers making it across the finish line at all would be rather low.

NASCAR is an interesting place for a woman like Danica, though, because it's the car that does the speed thing, and all she has to do is hang on and stay lucid throughout the grueling race. I think the fact that she's doing so well in a field where she's pretty much the only woman and, in raw terms, so physically outclassed by her male colleagues, says much about the whole burst vs. endurance thing between men and women. I think it would be truly hilarious to board a time machine and find out that 100 years from now women dominate motor racing sports because of their capacity for long-term endurance.
posted by localroger at 5:44 PM on February 17, 2013


Actually while men have greater short-term strength and power, women tend to have better long-term endurance than men.

I guess marathons just aren't long enough.

Please, people, you're talking about averages, not generalities. The mighty-mite Ms Wimp can kick my ass in the swimming pool, so the average doesn't make much difference to us. And note that in elite competitions (still can't call it a sport) we're talking about extremes of the distribution, not the means.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:44 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


This was instructive.
Danica Patrick Becomes First Woman to Win a Top Tier NASCAR Pole, Starting Up Front for Daytona 500

So what was Patrick's secret? Well, first and foremost her Chevrolet SS was powered by a Hendrick Motorsports engine, the power plant that's proved most impressive at Daytona this week. However the cars qualified in 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th also had HMS power, so why was Patrick able to go faster?

Well, that comes down to two things. First, SHR's Hendrick engines use special proprietary and race ready lubricants from Mobil 1, while Hendrick Motorsports themselves use less specialized Quaker State oil. Second, Patrick is extremely light, and even though NASCAR can add up to 40 pounds to a driver's car if they are under 180, if they are under 140, they're still underweight no matter how much is added. Thus, Patrick had a small weight advantage on both of her SHR team mates (as both are well above 180 and thus outside of the neutral area) that was about equivalent to the oil advantage she had on her fellow HMS powered drivers. Both would be irrelevant on a normal track, but on a plate track where everything is flat out and everyone basically uses the same line, these small advantages can be everything.

posted by gen at 6:13 PM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


A 6-figure bounty from GoDaddy if Danica poles would be enough for Stewart-Haas to throw their best engineers at her qualifying set-up.

There just aren't that many things that an extra 6 figures will give you that can affect a qualifying time in the enormously crippled (and hence restrictive) regulations that NASCAR provides, though.

I know full well that a qualifying set up is very different from a race set up but a 6 figure bonus means everyone tries harder and to suddenly manage to make that extra thousandth count with what just happens to be the biggest media sensation in NASCAR for several years? Just too good to be true.

She's just not a stellar driver. You need the best engineers, the best tyres, the best engine, the best chassis set up, the best preparation AND the best driver to get the pole time unless no-one else is trying. It's not like the whole team only phones it in unless it is Daytona. That's just not how race team people get out of bed and go to work.
posted by Brockles at 6:15 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Men also dominate Ultra Marathons.

Is there any individual physical sport with serious subscription where women currently compete equally with men (IE: being equally likely to win the top level competition?) The only one I can think of maybe sort of is ski jump.

This seems like a really silly thing to be arguing about. I mean if women really have a chance in endurance sports against men lets consolidate men and women classes in those sports in the Olympics thereby leaving space to bring back wrestling.

hoyland: "As long as the skills NASCAR selects for don't include "tremendous upper body strength" (which, frankly, I doubt--NASCAR drivers are not exactly the fittest guys in sport)"

No one is saying drivers are out there bench pressing buses. But make no mistake drivers are endurance athletes despite how much some NASCAR drivers might weigh.
posted by Mitheral at 6:22 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


it's the car that does the speed thing, and all she has to do is hang on and stay lucid throughout the grueling race.

This is not in any way representative of any kind of racing. 'All she has to do is hang on'? That's laughable. The requirement in racing is strength AND endurance, not one or the other. NASCAR isn't necessarily easier than other racing, it is just more specific in skills set.

I think it would be truly hilarious to board a time machine and find out that 100 years from now women dominate motor racing sports because of their capacity for long-term endurance.

You can take it as gospel that this will not be the case. If women were fundamentally better suited to race car driving, then people like me (and especially F1 teams) would have been throwing money and time at female race driving development and spending much more of our time ignoring the boys and encouraging the girls and scouting the karting world. There are plenty of girls in karting and they don't all fall by the wayside from money concerns.

We Engineers and team managers only care about winning. I couldn't give a crap if my driver is male, female, tall, short, fat, thin.. whatever. If a female driver would be faster, then I'd be putting her in a car tomorrow. There's a reason we're not doing that. Especially being as the single biggest barrier to racing is financial and it is WAY easier to get sponsorship for a female driver than a male.

Clearly women can compete at the elite level. Patrick is proof by ostention.

The proof you are looking for is not present. Women, as a whole, are not able to compete at the elite level equal to men. Patrick is not equal to all the drivers out there and she is the most successful (currently) woman driver in US Motorsport (circuit/NASCAR - I don't count or know about drag racing or anything of that ilk). She's not by any means the best or most skilled/fastest (Simona De Silvestro is by FAR) but she's the most successful mainly because of sheer marketing punch. It's when people try and use Danica as an example of how 'clearly there is parity of the sexes in racing' that I get so frustrated, because it makes genuinely talented women race car drivers look stupid, because they can't get to the top levels. Why? Because they don't look as good in a bikini and so don't get the backing. It is extraordinarily hard for women drivers to make it on talent alone, almost impossible if they don't also have the backing (same as any other driver).
posted by Brockles at 6:46 PM on February 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


Thanks for the clarification and inside scoop, Brockles. I won't admit I was completely wrong just yet, but might bet less if Q shows up with the time transporter and offers me odds.
posted by localroger at 6:55 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


The female body isn't optimized for speed; it's optimized for duration.

Simply re-asserting the same thing I just asked about doesn't make it something I'm more inclined to believe. Women's best times in ultra marathons are also not anywhere near the top of men's times. Yes, it can be argued that more men than women are encouraged to take up physical sports, so the pool of talent is smaller for women. As a consequence, once more women are encouraged to participate we would expect more parity. That's the theory.

But until a woman somewhere, sometime posts a finish at least, say, in the top fifty men's times in a marathon (hell, top 100 even) all the evidence suggests that the difference is physical. That's not conclusive and we can try to explain it by other means such as acculturation, and a single data point which contradicts the innante physicality theory would be cause for re-evaluation, but we're still looking for that single data point and haven't come close to seeing it yet.
posted by Justinian at 7:00 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


All that said, I hope Brockles is wrong 'cause I'd like to see Danica Patrick win.
posted by Justinian at 7:01 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


> "Is there any individual physical sport with serious subscription where women currently compete equally with men (IE: being equally likely to win the top level competition?)"

Definitely marathon open water swimming.

Pretty much all equestrian events and some sailing races, I believe.

And I've heard discussions about whether women are or soon will be at the level of equal competition for golf, bowling, darts, and shooting, for example.
posted by kyrademon at 7:09 PM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


The requirement in racing is strength AND endurance, not one or the other.

Auto racing boosters always overemphasize these rather minor aspects of the competition, because they bristle when someone suggests that it's just operating machinery and not an athletic competition. The physical demands are there, but a woman of Patrick's size can easily handle it, because the strength required to steer the cars at speed is not that great. The real challenge once you have a competitive machine is to be very skilled at efficiently getting around the track (since shortening the drive is really really helpful if you can maintain the same speed as everyone else) and to figure out when and how to pass as opportunities present themselves. Those aspects are video-game-like challenges. The final requirement is the willingness to risk death, because the mortality rate among drivers is high.
posted by Mental Wimp at 7:22 PM on February 17, 2013


Auto racing boosters always overemphasize these rather minor aspects of the competition

I train racing drivers for a living. It is not, in any way, a minor part of the competition. It is something that I have to stress again and again to young drivers before they believe me. It is fundamental and key to being able to be effective in a race car.

The real challenge once you have a competitive machine is to be very skilled at efficiently getting around the track

Doing so, and doing so within tiny parameters consistently despite the high loading the driver is under and expected to control, is a fundamental part of the extremely high physical demand of a modern racing driver.
posted by Brockles at 7:35 PM on February 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


What seems to be left out of this thread is that the track at Daytona, like Talladega, requires that the cars run restrictor plates that limit the amount of air that can be pulled into the engine. These make an engine that normally generates 800 horsepower into a wheezing 450 HP lump.

That means that the drivers have their foot wide open on the throttle the entire time they qualify. Many drivers have stated that they aren't a factor in qualifying at Daytona. Headwinds? yes. Getting your gearing right? Yes. Hitting your apexes properly when no one else is on the track? Child's play.

Danica is driving for Stewart Haas. They buy equipment from Hendrick Motorsports, a top tier team. Tony Stewart is one of the best superspeedway drivers ever. The odds that Danica's car wouldn't be setup with a chance to win the pole would be slim.

I'm very excited that she got the pole and think it is great for the sport, but I'd wait until the twin 125 race on Thursday before crowning her as sliced bread.
posted by machaus at 7:36 PM on February 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is there any individual physical sport with serious subscription where women currently compete equally with men (IE: being equally likely to win the top level competition?)

Rock climbing.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:44 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


The physical demands are there, but a woman of Patrick's size can easily handle it, because the strength required to steer the cars at speed is not that great.

I really have to disagree. The human head weighs about 11 lbs + 2 lbs for a helmet (13 lbs.) NASCAR drivers pull 4 to 5 g's on banked corners. This is the equivalent of having 52-63 pounds of force pulling you head sideways. I drive shorter races on short oval tracks at much lower speeds and it is exhausting. Add everything else mentioned previously and I don't see how you can seriously make that statement. Male or female there is only one way anyone is able to complete at that level is to be in amazing shape. Some race car drivers may not have the best abs to look at that doesn't mean they aren't in shape and they don't have to work hard to stay in shape.

The real challenge once you have a competitive machine is to be very skilled at efficiently getting around the track (since shortening the drive is really really helpful if you can maintain the same speed as everyone else) and to figure out when and how to pass as opportunities present themselves. Those aspects are video-game-like challenges.

There are a lot more physics than shortening up the distance at play. As far as passing opportunities go average drivers look for them. Great drivers create them. I use racing simulators to develop certain skills and for practice but nothing can beat seat time, in car with all the physics, danger, and unpredictably.
posted by empty vessel at 8:02 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is not, in any way, a minor part of the competition.

I would like to see some evidence of this. There are O2 consumption and heart rate studies* on drivers that show they are not very far below athletes engaged in some vigorous athletic competitions, so it's clear the driver must be in good physical condition and strong enough (and Danica certainly is). But the demands are not the kind one sees in top athletes in sports whose main requirements and deciding factors include speed, agility, and strength. I respect the skill involved in getting a racing vehicle around the track faster than anyone else and the perceptual and motor skills (no pun intended) it takes, but my impression is that very, very rarely is top physical conditioning of the driver the deciding factor. Much more often it is their judgement and skill, given that the car holds up.

*e.g.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:06 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I apologize in advance for my twelve-year-old self snickering when I heard "Danica is on the pole."
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:16 PM on February 17, 2013


What's Nate Silver's take on this? (Never bet against a smart fellow with numbers.)
posted by SPrintF at 8:51 PM on February 17, 2013


The real challenge once you have a competitive machine is to be very skilled at efficiently getting around the track (since shortening the drive is really really helpful if you can maintain the same speed as everyone else) and to figure out when and how to pass as opportunities present themselves. Those aspects are video-game-like challenges.

A little, I guess. But you have way more sensory input to integrate when your butt is in the seat of a moving vehicle -- touch and smell added, and far more extensive audio and visual input than you would get in all but the most elaborate simulation environments. And danger.
posted by indubitable at 8:53 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would like to see some evidence of this. There are O2 consumption and heart rate studies* on drivers that show they are not very far below athletes engaged in some vigorous athletic competitions, so it's clear the driver must be in good physical condition and strong enough (and Danica certainly is). But the demands are not the kind one sees in top athletes in sports whose main requirements and deciding factors include speed, agility, and strength.

It's a different class, but if you look at Jensen Button's (Philippine summer) triathlon times you might be surprised: "Button finished his very first half Ironman distance—1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21km run—in 4 hours, 35 minutes, 49 seconds." Given that he's training for driving rather than triathlon per se, that's an astonishing time.

Michael Schumacher was also famously athletically excellent, and I'm not sure why you'd think that elite drivers in other classes would be less fit. Driving also isn't only a matter of endurance, but sustained split-second concentration for hours of physical exertion without breaks. That's a lot more rare in sports, and makes fitness a big advantage as fatigue tends to kill both concentration and fine motor skills.
posted by jaduncan at 8:58 PM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Courtney Force is much faster.
posted by ambient2 at 9:01 PM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


McLaren were surprised by the fitness level of the their new signing, former Sauber driver, Sergio Perez who had some good results at Sauber but was very inconsistent. McLaren has put him on a program to increase his fitness and he has said he has never been more fit. Top teams put a tremendous amount of thought and time into a driver's fitness. Strength, endurance, and concentration are absolutely essential. Jenson Button has stated that he has gone through some corners where the G-Force is so high he can't even breathe. Bruno Senna has said driving F1 cars is incredibly violent. With controls that allow you to set the differential going into a corner, in the middle of corner, leaving a corner, and in high speed corners, as well as managing fuel, brake bias, etc., fitness is essential.

I don't know much about Nascar's physical demands but one of the most annoying thing about ovals for me personally (and circuits in American open wheel racing) is the full course cautions, which give the drivers a break for certain, but that said I'm sure to win multiple races and championships the physical condition of a driver is key factor.
posted by juiceCake at 9:14 PM on February 17, 2013


Courtney Force is much faster.

Yeah, but lets see her make a left turn.
posted by pjern at 11:23 PM on February 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


also, NASCAR Spring Cup turns right twice a year at Watkins Glen + Infineon (aka Sonoma, formerly known as Sears Point). Which doesn't sound like much in a season of thirty-plus races that all go the other way, but more than one season champ has sealed the deal via road coarse mastery.
posted by philip-random at 11:44 PM on February 17, 2013


Mental Wimp: "The final requirement is the willingness to risk death, because the mortality rate among drivers is high."

I see a list of fifty-two NASCAR driver deaths occurring in fifteen different series over the last sixty-one years. Deaths which, while tragic deaths of real human beings, aren't being compared with NASCAR drivers per crash incident, or NASCAR driver non-deaths, or total NASCAR drivers per race per series, or NASCAR races per series per season, or...

The list provided is no more than a tally. We could just as easily make a list of everyone who has died, ever, and wail about that instead.

Seriously. The number of non-fatals in NASCAR is nearly innumerable. If someone's penned such a list, and we were to compare it to ^this^ list, we'd realize that the mortality rate among drivers is not high - it merely exists.

We're not talking about the goddamned Coliseum. People still get hurt, and people still die, and motorsport's still dangerous, but it's not the meat grinder that it used to be. The actual death of drivers has become, if I might borrow your words, a rather minor aspect of the competition.
posted by Chutzler at 12:21 AM on February 18, 2013


I respect the skill involved in getting a racing vehicle around the track faster than anyone else and the perceptual and motor skills (no pun intended) it takes, but my impression is that very, very rarely is top physical conditioning of the driver the deciding factor.

Mike Vick is physically a better athlete than Tom Brady. Decision making and execution are the key factors separating the best from the rest in a lot of sports.

We Engineers and team managers only care about winning. I couldn't give a crap if my driver is male, female, tall, short, fat, thin.. whatever.

genuinely talented women race car drivers...can't get to the top levels. Why? Because they don't look as good in a bikini and so don't get the backing.


Seems like a bit of a contradiction, but I understand that is sponsor driven more than engineer driven. That's just the sport though, a ton of the men only got their backing because of nepotism which is less savory to me than effectively marketing yourself as an outsider.

I remember reading an article about Danica training when she was younger and having the instructors say things to the male students when she was faster along the lines of, "You're letting the girl beat you?" They wouldn't even consider that she could just be the best racer there, it had to be something wrong with the guys. I think you overstate it a bit when you say speed is all people care about.

I don't think women are going to dominate the sport in the future, but there doesn't seem to be much reason for their rates of participation not to go way, way up if more women start to be interested in it. Danica had some very good races in Nationwide last year and ate some terrible luck at times (Who throws a shoe? Honestly!) so it's not out of the realm that she could pull off a cup win. I'm rooting for her because she seems pretty likeable to me and I like her willingness to compete. I also get annoyed with the backlash against her among online fans. She may get a bit too much media attention for her accomplishments, but you don't have to get all hatey over it. NASCAR is a carnival show as much as a sport, they give the people a good show.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:50 AM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


As is normal, if you don't try it, you don't know it.

Until you shoot, you don't recognize the challenges of accurate shooting.

Until you race, you don't recognize the challenges of accurate racing.

I haven't done much of either, but I've done enough. Cart racing instantly disabused me of the notion that this wasn't physical work -- inertia is indeed a bear, and you need to fight that bear, for hours, making fairly complicated decisions under pressure. You are not running the wheels, but you are carrying *you*. As it happens, that's hard.

By far the most astonishing program I've seen in this space is Sony's GT Academy Gamer To Racer, which takes gamers who can figure out the mental challenges, and sees if they can then operate in the real world. The results:
Over 2.3 million hopefuls have tried out for GT Academy since 2008, and graduates of the virtual-to-reality programme have so far netted a second place finish at the legendry Le Mans 24 Hour race, a championship win in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup and most recently a podium finish in the World Endurance Championship. In January of this year an all-gamer line-up made history when they finished on the podium of the Dubai 24 hour race.
posted by effugas at 3:19 AM on February 18, 2013


Not only are there no transponders on the cars (so cars are not able to be timed by anyone other than NASCAR in the exact same way) but also there is no access to live timing feeds AT ALL. So no-one is able to tell if NASCAR is telling the truth with their timing


Ahh...but did you see the Ghost Car coverage yesterday?
posted by vitabellosi at 3:57 AM on February 18, 2013


By far the most astonishing program I've seen in this space is Sony's GT Academy Gamer To Racer, which takes gamers who can figure out the mental challenges, and sees if they can then operate in the real world

I watched this years GT Academy and I know the winner personally. Many of the finalists had some grass roots racing experience. There were several challenges where the grass roots racing helped them. There was one guy who had autocrossed and did great at the "gates" challenge driving through the cutouts of the car.

Steve Dougherty, the winner, in several of the challenges received high marks for his car handling. My guess is that his dirt track experience helped him there.

Bottom line it's easier to be competitive in a game than in reality. Physical condition definitely plays into it. I know Steve spends allot of time preparing in that regard.

The kid who finished second hadn't raced but was the youngest and most fit.

The other aspect is just understanding the physics of the car. Steve is one of the smartest people I know in that regards. (He and Brockles have been my best sources of information since getting started in wheel to wheel racing last year)

A woman winning the pole at Daytona, impressive. Someone like me who starts racing in their early 40's winning it, miraculous if not impossible. I'll be happy if I can beat the youngsters at my local dirt track this year.

As far as the nepotism and marketability being a factor in who gets a seat. That's true. There are also those who just buy their rides by having enough money to sponsor themselves. Making you self marketable is really the only option if you don't have the family connections or the money to get your seat.
posted by empty vessel at 5:46 AM on February 18, 2013


A woman winning the pole at Daytona, impressive. Someone like me who starts racing in their early 40's winning it, miraculous if not impossible. I'll be happy if I can beat the youngsters at my local dirt track this year.

Heh. Again, see Michael Schumacher (but Mk. 2 this time).
posted by jaduncan at 6:10 AM on February 18, 2013


May the best driver win.
posted by kinnakeet at 6:13 AM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I respect the skill involved in getting a racing vehicle around the track faster than anyone else and the perceptual and motor skills (no pun intended) it takes, but my impression is that very, very rarely is top physical conditioning of the driver the deciding factor.

Your impression from where, though? I did a quick google search on the importance of fitness in racing drivers to see if there is a bunch of misinformation out there, but even given NASCAR is less physically demanding than the kind of racing that I work in there are countless articles stressing how important it is to be fit for NASCAR. Your impression is far, far off the mark.

I would like to see some evidence of this.

Just out of interest, what would you consider evidence? Would the testimony of a professional race engineer and team manager with 25 years experience in motor racing be enough for you? How about someone who has trained racing drivers in driving skills and advised them on all aspects of their development (including fitness) and helped those drivers win races, championships and (in one case) build the starting blocks of a career that took them right to the pinnacle of the sport (Formula 1)? Because that's me. I know motor racing backwards and your impression of the lack of importance of physical conditioning is very far from accurate. There are, as I said, plenty of articles out there that cover this but have a look at the programme of one of the best driver fitness programmes out there. Fitness and strength is crucial to success.

Ahh...but did you see the Ghost Car coverage yesterday?

Just watched it. Meh. TV coverage is not all that convincing to me - I have no idea how she suddenly gained nearly 3/4 of a car length on the last 10% of the straight on a flat out track, though. That was a very weird place for time to be gained. There's no braking there, no significant line change or line difference. Very odd. But Ghost car imagery isn't even accurate, never mind openly available to scrutiny. Besides, maybe Danica did drive that lap, but that still doesn't assuage my nagging suspicion that it is contrived. It is far enough out of her normal performance envelope in the 14 years of racing that I've known her be driving and just that bit too convenient for NASCAR's media machine for me to believe it. There are many, many ways to make sure a car get pole position - from faking the timing stream to just looking the other way at tech or just dropping off a certain restrictor plate to be added to the pole car. For the good of the series, right?

There is a very easy way to get all the rumours to go away and it is the industry standard for the entire of the rest of the sport globally. Open timing protocols. Until that day, I will view every single marketing-convenient qualifying (and even race) result with a pinch of salt from NASCAR. It's far too much about the show and not enough about actually racing, for me.

I'd be happy if Danica finally started to show some form, I really would. I truly wish she was the ambassador for women in racing that she is heralded to be, but she doesn't have the talent to back up the hype. She's never been the best driver out there and demonstrably isn't even the best female driver out there. But she gets ALL the breaks and all the attention because she's hot (or considered to be). That means that not only do the female drivers out there already struggle to beat the more physically suited men, but now they also have a precedent set where they're less likely to get backing if they don't look as good in a swimsuit.

It's a bit cave men for me. NASCAR is a terribly misogynistic and backwards thinking sport anyway (not least due in some part to the attitudes of most of their audience that they have to cater to) but this attitude at such a high level will pervade the lower formulae. Which, while many women are driven to compete (perhaps because of Danica) now this pathetic 'also have to be a pin up' requirement is heavily stressed.
posted by Brockles at 6:17 AM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


It is a bit suspicious to me (and many others that I have seen and heard from within the industry and outside it) that so often do we see unusual people and/or sponsor combinations on pole positions at appropriate times. Driver A is having sponsor issues

Patrick ended up on the pole by almost four hundredths, and beat the first guy on the theoretical* by over a tenth. That's enough that the broadcasters would notice if you're cheating the time.

However, this....

Not only are there no transponders on the cars (so cars are not able to be timed by anyone other than NASCAR in the exact same way)

...simply isn't true and hasn't been for a while -- though NASCAR was the last major formula to use them. This discusses the system, and this talks about a large number of pit road speeding penalties issued at Pocono last year from the transponder system. Funny enough, most of them were in the last section. Can you say "Got on it too soon?" Yes, yes you can.



* Qualifying at the Daytona 500 is complicated. Of all that running, only *two* people, Patrick and Jeff Gordon, earned grid spots (Pole and Next-To-Pole) The rest will race in two 125 mile races to determine their spot. Patrick and Gordon have to race to, but they won't move, unless they damage the car enough that they have to swap engines or bodies, then they'll be in the back.

It is, to be frank, silly.
posted by eriko at 7:14 AM on February 18, 2013


And I've heard discussions about whether women are or soon will be at the level of equal competition for golf, bowling, darts, and shooting, for example.

Men and women originally competed together in Olympic shooting competitions. What happened that led to the abrupt creation of women's competitions? It became apparent that a woman could win the competition. Margaret Murdock won a silver medal in riflery in 1976 (it also sounds possible the rules were creatively employed to ensure she didn't win). In 1984, there's a women's competition and women are barred from the men's competition. Zhang Shan won the gold medal in skeet in 1992. Women were barred the 1996 Olympic skeet competition entirely (yes, they banned the reigning champion from participating) and there was a separate women's competition in 2000.

Given that the Olympic shooting competitions tend to be dominated by soldiers, it's a pretty good guess that the reason there weren't more medals won by women was cultural, not that men are better than women at shooting.
posted by hoyland at 8:03 AM on February 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


simply isn't true and hasn't been for a while.

That was misleading, yes. Access to the transponders is the key element that is indefensible, to me. From the team perspective, there is effectively no transponder in the car (so that, to me = no transponder) because they are not allowed data systems (that have their own transponders, either GPS, light beam or reads track embedded wires like the official system) nor access to any output from the one NASCAR uses. So there is no way to know if the transponder information (printed timesheets) released by NASCAR truly reflects that which was seen on track.

It is such a fundamentally easy thing to manipulate and even easier to disprove (either with external data systems or releasing the transponder feed live to the teams like pretty much every other race series) that NASCARs refusal to even consider it is suspicious, to me. Pit lane speed limit information is also not released as data, so while I am sure their system is accurate, you don't get to see that accuracy at all - NASCAR can add 1mph for someone and take it away from someone else and no-one would be any the wiser. The way to reduce the accusations of bias in this manner? Transparency of data. Yet NASCAR refuse, point blank, to do so.

Patrick ended up on the pole by almost four hundredths

You can't see that, nor a tenth of a second, by eye either naked or with the television. Only if the cars are actually running together would you have a chance of seeing a tenth visually (and I don't count the ghost car as accurate).

Besides, while I think there is an 'other than zero' chance that the lap wasn't a genuine reflection of speed from Danica's car, I don't think the fudge factor was necessarily in the timing (as I have said) but even the existence of the fudge factor is very, very easy to do with the way that NASCAR runs its series. It could have been ignoring the car running slightly out of spec or anything of a list of many methods. If the series, rather than the team, want a certain result they can encourage it in so many ways and NASCAR (with it's suspicious caution periods to bunch the field up at shockingly convenient times, for instance) does not at all have clean hands. A team cheating individually is much, much harder to achieve.

I wish Danica had shown better in Indycars. It'd be much nicer and easier to be genuinely happy for her. But NASCAR is such a rotten pit of archaic technology, outdated regulations and operating practices (and cynical manipulations) that it isn't as simple as 'the fastest driver is the best' in the same manner. In other sports it is easy to tell if the driver is good, or good in a great car, or great in a crap car or whatever combination.
posted by Brockles at 8:09 AM on February 18, 2013


I see a list of fifty-two NASCAR driver deaths occurring in fifteen different series over the last sixty-one years. Deaths which, while tragic deaths of real human beings, aren't being compared with NASCAR drivers per crash incident, or NASCAR driver non-deaths, or total NASCAR drivers per race per series, or NASCAR races per series per season, or...

Yes, but that's a lot of deaths among hale and hearty men and women in their prime, when mortality in the general population is extremely low. When you consider the brief amount of time they spend actually racing, the number of deaths is quite high.

Seriously. The number of non-fatals in NASCAR is nearly innumerable. If someone's penned such a list, and we were to compare it to ^this^ list, we'd realize that the mortality rate among drivers is not high - it merely exists.

I think you're confusing survivability of crashes with mortality rates. I suspect survivability is higher in professional racing crashes than in real life, but, as you say, there are so many of them. Professional racing has made some efforts to lower mortality and morbidity, and it has become lower, but it's still not a walk in the park.

Just out of interest, what would you consider evidence?

Oh, how about a study of randomly selected driver fitness measures (e.g., speed, strength, agility, etc.) and how well they predict success vs. hand-eye coordination and proprioception? That would be more trustworthy than the opinion of a guy who works in racing (no offense, but you might be a bit biased).
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:04 AM on February 18, 2013


I think you're confusing survivability of crashes with mortality rates.

I'm saying that the high survivability of crashes contributes to a mortality rate that's lower than advertised.
posted by Chutzler at 10:23 AM on February 18, 2013


(no offense, but you might be a bit biased)

Um. that is kind of a baffling response, to be honest. Biased for what gain? Why am I more inclined to project or suggest a view point that fitness is more important more than it actually is just because I work in the industry (directly with precisely the factor you are suggesting isn't important). A lot of people would perhaps give me the benefit of the doubt in being knowledgeable about it rather than more likely to make something up to support some bizarre agenda, I'd have thought. I'm trying not to seem fighty in my response, but its pretty hard to take a claim so far out of left field (and established and proven thinking in my industry) seriously, to be honest.

If, as a Race Engineer, I told you that aerodynamic drag is detrimental to straight line speed, would you not believe me because I was 'biased'?

If a marathon runner told you that fitness was important, would you not believe them unless a doctor corroborated it?

What about a Horse Rider saying that balance is important? Similar need for documented proof?

If a pilot told you that eyesight was important to their job, would you believe them without a series of published eye tests? Would they be biased?

The importance of fitness within racing is as well known and essential to the sport as any of the above factors, and I am halfway between amused and bemused that you suggest it isn't based on (it seems) nothing more than 'it seems to me that it isn't a factor'. It's as obvious in modern racing as 'you need to make sure the wheels are bolted on properly'. I suspect that you find it hard to believe based more on your preconceptions (from lack of knowledge of the sport beyond and perhaps due to what you see on tv) than on any real belief that I am 'biased'.

I work directly with racing drivers (I'm the guy on the other end of the radio when they are driving). I have engineered and coached drivers through thousands of hours of driving and poured over reams of data to find ways and methods that will increase their overall lap speed and their ability to maintain that pace through testing, qualifying and race events. Every single avenue is explored - all aspects of the car (settings, design, build, procedures) and since around the 1980's this has transferred to the driver. Every aspect of him/her and their ability to perform reliably is analysed and monitored throughout the test.

I've been lucky to work with some incredibly talented drivers (one of whom is now in Formula 1 - the pinnacle of motor racing and one of the most demanding physical environments in any sport) and I have coached some of them from the very first time they got into a car of any kind and watched their performance to the minutest detail over entire test days through the car data systems. I've helped these same drivers set records, win races and championships and become professional racing drivers. I've watched them grow in technical understanding, car control, race craft as they mature and learn and also sometimes seen their progress stall and cause frustration, lack of pace and mistakes as their physical conditioning hasn't grown at the same rate as their desire to win. To be a complete race car driver you have to be better than your competitors at everything and if you are the least fatigued of all your peers you are also likely to be the one that makes the least mistakes and drives closer to your ultimate pace.

I can spot driver fatigue from the data traces from the car (steering angle, braking pressure, cornering G, rpm, speed etc) almost instantly. I've watched drivers lap times drop by several tenths as they got progressively tired and known it was fatigue long before the driver did until I trained them to understand and recognise their physical limitations in order to take their physical training seriously. I've also watched the same driver - after just a night's rest - drop all the tiny errors and problems (and reported 'car problems') of the afternoon before and drop half a second off their fastest time in the exact same set up and car just from being fresh. The lap time was easier for them, more relaxed and able to be replicated over a long test run (essential for effective testing) just because they weren't tired. They are mentally fresher (better feedback, more accurate driving) and better drivers all round if their physical fitness and strength is maintained through the day.

I've watched this first hand for years. It's a known fact to anyone that drives or is involved within racing and has been widely known as a major factor since the days of playboy drivers like James Hunt and Keke Rosberg in the 1970's and '80's. It is a little bizarre to me that someone should question this fact based on zero actual data other than 'I don't think it is so'. I'd be interested in seeing any data you may have that it doesn't affect it, to be honest. Being as my position is the industry accepted one, I'm not sure the burden of proof should be on me!
posted by Brockles at 11:41 AM on February 18, 2013 [15 favorites]


Brockles, you handled that response much better than I could have if I were in your shoes.

Not to toot horns too loudly but Brockles' contributions around here and on AskMe in the automotive field are one of the things that make MeFi stand out as a resource. I monitor a good bit of his input via the sidebar/contact info/whatever you call it and I've never been given a reason to suspect a bias or agenda, nor have I seen one here.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:03 PM on February 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Btw, I posted that 2nd link just in case someone wanted to question if perhaps I was biased in my opinion of Brockles and wanted me to provide evidence that I wasn't. This is MetaFilter after all.

Anyway, to me someone who goes to MetaTalk for the sole purpose of helping automotive askers/answers get it right and having less responses on the site that are directly and explicitly unhelpful is probably a bit less biased than the average "My answer or the highway" bear.

/toot
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:14 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


one of whom is now in Formula 1 - the pinnacle of motor racing and one of the most demanding physical environments in any sport

I'm assuming you don't want to say who that is, but FWIW, here, have some necessarily generic good wishes for their safe and successful season, even if they drive for Ferrari.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:37 PM on February 18, 2013


I maybe an entry level driver but I feel like I've heard it all in the short time I've been racing. The pits at grass roots race events are like "know it all conventions" some well meaning, some just full of crap, and some that are trying to intentionally misdirect.

I have probably gotten advise from dozens of people and I trust 4 of them with out question. Brockles is at the top of the list, we're lucky have someone like him on MeFi. His advise to me as been candid and honest, on the rare occasion he is out side his well of experience he's doesn't hesitate to admit it. I see no bias in his response. Just honesty and experience.
posted by empty vessel at 2:36 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll defend Mental Wimp a little here by pointing out that yes, Brockles is biased, in the same way that people who are very experienced at things get to be biased towards those things working. Look at any sport and you'll find in its history a time when there was a conventional wisdom that was later utterly overturned -- in baseball, sabermetrics was roundly opposed by the old guard until it started winning; in football, there are actual economists who study whether it's better to lose earlier in the season. Brockles's bias is not a bad bias (I agree with his assessment, so clearly he's highly intelligent and perceptive), but having spent a lifetime in a field, he is somewhat mentally invested in his theories about that field being true.

Just like the rest of us.
posted by Etrigan at 3:03 PM on February 18, 2013


Look at any sport and you'll find in its history a time when there was a conventional wisdom that was later utterly overturned

While I see your point, I'd posit that the conventional wisdom was indeed overturned, but that 'wisdom' was that you don't need to be in shape to drive a race car. After all it's just holding a wheel, right? That was overturned around 1975-78. Just after the conventional wisdom that 'motor racing is dangerous that death is a fact of life in racing' was overturned.

Unless race cars become less capable in terms of performance or produce less g-force (a trend that has been unswervingly in the exact opposite direction since the dawn of the motor car) then fitness will continue to be a major factor in driver performance. The only way that I see that changing is if the cars get so fast that we remove the driver entirely. No other change will reduce physical fitness requirements of the driver unless we can produce isolated or controlled gravity cells inside the cars.

he is somewhat mentally invested in his theories about that field being true.

There's more to it than that, though. Because we'd design elements into the car to remove or lessen the influence of that very physical element if it were at all possible. Because it is an uncontrollable variable, that bit of organic matter in the middle. It's utterly unavoidable that the person inside that machine must be able to withstand the forces the car is creating. The less those forces affect them, the better the result. We can't do it with vehicle design, so the driver has to do it with physical conditioning.

I appreciate the support here, by the way. Thanks
posted by Brockles at 4:17 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


While I see your point, I'd posit that the conventional wisdom was indeed overturned, but that 'wisdom' was that you don't need to be in shape to drive a race car.

Yes, but it's entirely possible that the conventional wisdom that replaced that conventional wisdom is somehow flawed as well. Again, I'm not disagreeing with your assessment (notice that I was one of the first people in this thread to say that endurance is important in auto racing); I'm just pointing out that the idea that you're biased towards your assessment shouldn't be seen as a personal attack on you or your credentials.
posted by Etrigan at 4:33 PM on February 18, 2013


This is a bizarre argument.

I assume people aren't suggesting that the ability to keep the driver's helmet stable during a turn for clearer vision isn't an advantage, or that the corner g-forces don't push the head and helmet sideways hard. If either of those things are true, fitness is obviously a huge advantage.

Cognition speed/fatigue, minor issues such as breathing during braking, and the core and arm strength to remain precise on the wheel during high g-force turns are merely extra benefits to the core ability to avoid the helmet forcing one's head around and/or vibrating it hard when it touches metal. Not avoiding this will result in crashes in most classes and possible spectator or driver/co-driver deaths in rallying in particular.
posted by jaduncan at 5:16 PM on February 18, 2013


From a paper entitled:
"High Acceleration and the Human Body" by Martin Voshell.

Found here (PDF)

This is an academic analysis of what occurred at Texas Motor Speedway when CART tried to there for the first time in 2001.

"On Sunday April 29th, 2001, CART was to make its debut at the Texas Motor
Speedway. Two hours prior to the green flag, the drivers refused to race on the
track. While running practice laps the previous two days, drivers were reaching
relatively higher than normal speeds (topping at 236.9 mph) on the oval’s high
24 banked turns.

Drivers were subjected to over 5G on their bodies and of the
25 drivers, 21 of them complained of being disoriented and dizzy while racing.
Others complained of visual problems and one driver admitted to momentarily
passing out on the back stretch and drifting into the banking. Every driver that
completed more than 10 laps had trouble. CART, on behalf of the drivers’
complaints and safety concerns, canceled the 250 lap race much to the protest
of the track’s manager and the anger of 60,000 fans [3]."
(Page 1)

"High performance driving requires a great amount of physiological exertion on
similar levels to elite athletes [14]. At peak driving speeds, heart rate and O2
uptake levels are high and so are lateral and vertical G-forces (averaging about 4
to 4.5G). In such a work environment drivers are susceptible to a high magnitude
of vibration, shock, and increased muscle use throughout their bodies [16] ."
(Page 17)

Very little in modern professional racing is left to "conventional wisdom".

"Gravity is a cruel mistress" - The Tick
posted by empty vessel at 6:54 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


And yet, Danica Patrick, a person who by all accounts weighs about 2/3 of most of her male peers, is if not at the top of the game at least in competition. Considering the argument that she gets sponsors because she looks good in a bikini, one has to wonder if women more on par physically with the men of NASCAR might be capable of more, if they could get sponsors.
posted by localroger at 7:17 PM on February 18, 2013


Yes, but it's entirely possible that the conventional wisdom that replaced that conventional wisdom is somehow flawed as well.

But you only have two options there, A or B. Your analogy is treating it as if it is an artifact of the sport rather than an inherent required facility. It's a yes or no, not a "how to play the game" question.

Oh, how about a study of randomly selected driver fitness measures (e.g., speed, strength, agility, etc.) and how well they predict success vs. hand-eye coordination and proprioception?

How are you specifically measuring any of those things? The validity can vary pretty widely between all those, and some of them may not even be valid metrics at all. Because a 40 yard dash, the squat, and a 5 dot drill test would ultimately be pointless, but are not uncommon for what you are asking to test. Beyond all that my guess is that sustained isometric contractions are far more suited and a better indicator of performance rather most isotonic exercises.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:23 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Right, yes, Danica Patrick ... My basic thought on this is: Good for you, you put it on pole!

But that just means you're first in line for the start of the race. She's got 500 miles to go when that green flag drops.

And that, for me, has always been the problem with Danica. She can, on occasion, string together a quick lap in practice or qualifying. She and her crew can get the numbers figured, and she can find her self in the lead for stretches of time. Once she was even there when they threw the checker. She won. Yay for Danica. She's a good driver.

But that's just it: She's a good driver.

And what she's involved in is a race.

All this stuff about is she leveraging her looks to get rides or does she even have the right to be there versus other drivers or upper body strength this and g force that would fall by the wayside if she were to start doing a lot of one thing: Win.

For all of Danica's brushes with speed, she's not all that fast on a consistant basis, and she pretty much sucks in traffic. When there's other people on the track with her, she's usually in mid-pack.

Let's just put it this way: Michelle Mouton or Lynn St. James or Hellé Nice she ain't.

It's called car racing, not car driving.
posted by Relay at 10:22 PM on February 18, 2013


Late to the party; but I wanted to add a few things. Caveats: I come from a racing family, from the mechanical side. NASCAR is not the same organization it was, back when my stepdad was blueprinting engines. NASCAR and stock cars are different animals; and nobody without gazillions of dollars to meet the ever changing desires of the France family can break into real racing; it's why there are like 10 owners for 50 cars. Back in the day, if you could field a fast stock, you could race. Not so much any more. You know the Petty Blue? They got that color by mixing a bunch of leftover paint in the shed together; that was stock racing; you put your car together, you put it on the track, let the best man/car win.

I say that because the way cars are set up now are completely different than the cars I've been privileged to drive. However, the physical requirements have not changed that dramatically, except to say that drivers are significantly better athletes than they were in the 70's and 80s.

All that said; when it comes to the technical aspects of racing, the odds are Brockles knows more than you.

I am a woman. I drove my first drag race when I was barely big enough to reach the pedals. I won. A lot. The majority of that because the powerhouse I was holding on to was so insanely good; not because I was a prodigy. Drag racing is all about holding on to your ride. By 16 or so, I could hold my own on dirt tracks, and won regularly enough that someone was willing to chance me driving oval.

Oval track is an entirely different beast. Even back then, when the speeds were nowhere near what we see today, I was entirely unprepared for the physical requirements of oval. I was no slouch athletically; I was a competition gymnast, and had spent most of my life doing dance.

I couldn't hold on to the car on oval after about 50 laps. Just couldn't do it. Keep in mind that this was decades before haans devices and other heavy upper body equipment. I didn't have the strength or the endurance. Driving those cars is hard. The force around some of those corners was enough to make me feel like I couldn't breathe, and I was terrified because I was seriously afraid I would pass out and take out an entire field of drivers and cars. Even practice runs had not prepared me for what it was like to try and drive 250 miles at that speed, in traffic, around those corners.

Can women drive stock? Absolutely. But just like the men, they have to be serious athletes to hold on to that 5000 pound beast at gforces that equal jet planes. Are there significant barriers to a woman getting a sponsor? Oh, yeah. Huge. Huge barriers. Sexism is alive and well in NASCAR.

I was really conflicted about Danica, not because she's doing what I wanted to do; and doing it way better than I ever could; but because I despise her sponsor SO much. And then someone reminded me of Stroker Ace and said "Hey, you wanna race, you gotta wear the chicken suit." Go Daddy is her chicken suit. It sucks, but there it is; you gotta dance with them what brung you.

But suggesting that she's not a top notch athlete, capable of extreme endurance, is patently offensive. Danica may not be the top driver, and because I'm not in her crew, I don't know if that's because of equipment, or if her reflexes are a tenth of a second too slow, or if it's because she just needs more time to dial into driving a car that is significantly different than the cars she came up driving; but the fact is, she's still better than hundreds of other drivers who didn't make it all the way up to play in the house that Big Bill built.

And while I've pretty much lost interest in nascar, because of the cookie cutter builds, and because of crap like dual drafting requirements to make it around the track, I may actually watch the entire Daytona for the first time in years. (Unless it shakes out like it did last year, where you have to pair up, and it's a dull race that's all about track position at flag, and nothing to do with the actual skill of racing. Then I'll get bored and turn it off 10 laps in and go do something else.)

All of that said; if you want to see real racing; look up your local track; and head out there on a weekend night. That's where the real racers are. Not millionaires. Not spoiled babies throwing temper tantrums. Serious, balls to floor, wide open racing. That's the good stuff right there, I tell you what. And there are young women doing it. And winning.
posted by dejah420 at 6:41 AM on February 19, 2013 [186 favorites]


I think I'm being misunderstood. I'm not saying race car driving isn't hard, that there's no physical exertion involved, that the G-forces aren't large and stressful or that fatigue can't be detected in driving. I'm saying that physical conditioning (i.e., strength, speed, endurance) is not one of the deciding factors in winning. That the top drivers are not the top physical specimens. They have to be in what would be reasonable athletic condition but not the type of physical condition that, say, an NBA or Premier League player must be in. Nor are they required to be able to execute any processes that compare to the athletic prowess these athletes routinely display. I'm not dissing the drivers or saying that they don't have very specialized and rare skills and I certainly don't question Brockles' expertise in auto racing, for Chrissakes. But the athleticism and conditioning of the drivers is not that extraordinary and is way, way down the list of factors determining winners. Otherwise, Danica Patrick. You know, the topic here.
posted by Mental Wimp at 7:44 AM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


@dejah420 Thanks for that especially, the last bit. It's gettin' a bit dusty in here...
posted by empty vessel at 7:44 AM on February 19, 2013


Mental Wimp: very, very rarely is top physical conditioning of the driver the deciding factor.

Mental Wimp: I'm saying that physical conditioning (i.e., strength, speed, endurance) is not one of the deciding factors in winning. That the top drivers are not the top physical specimens.

Nor are they required to be able to execute any processes that compare to the athletic prowess these athletes routinely display.

I guess we're just banging away at semantics then because the first hand opinion of everyone here who is involved in racing doesn't really jive with what you're asserting. There are quite a few first hand accounts here that mention how physically demanding the sport is on drivers and zero first hand accounts saying it's not an issue, that it wasn't a factor, or that it wasn't a major consideration. Your request for hard data that suits your criteria is noble but that doesn't necessarily make it fair or the correct place to lay the burden of proof.

When you keep bringing up that drivers are not 'top physical specimens' it seems like you're moving the goal posts, but not necessarily farther away... more of a left or right thing.

As dejah420 mentions she was a fit (I'm assuming a bit there) dancer and competition gymnast. To say that she wasn't a top physical specimen, not that you did directly, is a bit asinine just because her musculature and physique didn't work with the situation she had been put in on a highspeed oval. Does that make her less of an athlete? Of course not. Likewise, you can't say that because drivers have the build/fit/physique to better handle their trade and the situations it puts them in but maybe couldn't do a handstand on the pommel horse to save their life that they're not heavily dependent on their muscles/endurance/speed/what have you or aren't damn impressive athletes.

So, maybe the debate is about the phrase "deciding factor" and I guess I agree with you there because from what I can tell it's even more than that. It's a baseline requirement and, to me, not one that's binary. By binary I mean that for some things once you have a certain level of skill more won't necessarily benefit you, like buttoning your shirt, once you've got it that's all you need. In racing, since you're in direct competition with others who want to leave you behind everything, every bit of an edge you have over your opponent, you have at your disposal matters.

But the athleticism and conditioning of the drivers is not that extraordinary and is way, way down the list of factors determining winners. Otherwise, Danica Patrick.

I'll admit a huge revelation that came to me, feel free to judge if it makes me a sexist pig. I'm a very logical person, sometimes to a fault. Anyway, while in my early teens I played chess and was decent at it, winning a few competitions here and there. I also understood, in a basic way, why women didn't compete directly with men in athletic competitions like track or basketball or what have you, men and women are different and men, by and large, have advantages in height/strength/endurance/whatever, I'm not wanting to debate my logical reasoning at that stage and how science proves X or Y now, it's just how I saw things. But I couldn't understand chess. Why were there far more men playing chess at high levels than women? Why no Betty Fisher? Why no female all-stars in history? Men must be just a bit smarter right? Ha, how about that...

Well, of course (and thank goodness) I later figured out that my reasoning wasn't justified and that it's really more about opportunity and how women are just shat upon more often than their brothers.

Getting to my point, which is that I can sympathize with your thinking even though I disagree with its conclusion totally:

Is it true that women have a harder time in making themselves into race car drivers than men because of the sexism and other hurdles they'll have to face. Unquestionably yes.

And does that mean that a woman that makes it to the highest level is probably really, really good? Sponsorship/chicken suit/bikini suit concerns aside, yes it does.

But is it a valid argument to say that fitness/athleticism is "way down the list of factors determing winners" because "Danica Patrick". Nope, I don't think it is.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:33 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


.But the athleticism and conditioning of the drivers is not that extraordinary and is way, way down the list of factors determining winners.

I appreciate the clarification, but the position moves from "What? How?" to "Well, I'm afraid you're still wrong".

The athleticism in the highest reaches of the sport (F1, GP2, Sportscars etc) IS extraordinary. It is ridiculously high. It is olympic athlete level high if you want to be the best. But maybe you're judging this purely in what you see in NASCAR. NASCAR is not as physically demanding as top (or even 2nd tier) road course racing, but physical conditioning is still very, very important.

I'm saying that physical conditioning (i.e., strength, speed, endurance) is not one of the deciding factors in winning..

It may seem that way to you just because it isn't obvious enough to the outsider that pretty much all the top drivers have a comparable level of fitness. It isn't an issue you can see because they are all fit enough and so you don't ever see any comparisons of relative fitness impacting performance directly because those things are dealt with long before the driver gets to the track. Look for drivers switching teams (Perez in Formula 1) or switching levels (from NASCAR to Indycar and back) and you will immediately see mention of the different physical demands. But then they fix them in the gym and after the first few weeks or a month it stops becoming so obvious an issue to the outsider because the basic required level of fitness is achieved.

The reason it does't seem like a factor, perhaps, is because you don't see unfit people losing and fitter people winning (as you would in athletics, for instance). It either isn't obvious or isn't admitted why the driver lost so you don't get to see the fitness issues outside the sport. But it happens.
posted by Brockles at 8:38 AM on February 19, 2013


Here is a question from someone who knows almost nothing about the sport. How well has Danica Patrick done objectively?

I mean, I can look her up and see that she's won once and gotten second or third a bunch of times. But I don't really know what that means. Do good drivers normally have four or five first place wins by this point in their careers? Ten or twenty? None at all unless they're among the top ten racers in the world? I have no idea.
posted by kyrademon at 8:46 AM on February 19, 2013


How well has Danica Patrick done objectively?

I've seen Danica race in the UK and here since she was about 17. She's a pretty good driver but no superstar (given the parameter "as a professional race driver how does she rate"). She has been a pretty consistent 'low top ten' performer throughout her career with some surprising highlights (2nd in the Formula Ford Festival in England - an extremely competitive environment, for instance) but they have been the occasional flashes of speed but from my perspective shows no signs of being able to sustain that level of competition.

She's not crap, by any means. She's pretty fast most of the time, fairly consistent some days in speed but makes lots of errors the next day. She can be prone to stupid errors too that she should long be past (she's been known to make mistakes that would be rookie mistakes long after she lost rookie status) and has been known to lose her temper in a manner that is detrimental.

Those inconsistencies and up and down form (and lack of outright speed/performance) are what stop her being the kind of driver that deserves the hype she carries with her, to my mind. She's a solid 2nd or 3rd driver. If you put her in a great car at the right track, she can get a good lap time in but I'd be very surprised if she was able to sustain that pace for the full race or replicate it through the rest of the season. I"m prepared to be wrong, but I'd be fairly confident I'm not.

Do good drivers normally have four or five first place wins by this point in their careers? Ten or twenty?

It depends on so many factors - what team she was with, their relative performance at the time, etc. But Danica has been in extremely good teams most of her career (because she has had the budget) and her winning ratio and results based on that fact is pretty dismal. Her team mates have destroyed her in that regard.
posted by Brockles at 9:09 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Any comparison is complicated because winning and placing is also pretty strongly a matter of what equipment you have access to and which technicians and engineers you have access to.

But anyway, last year she was seven years into a top-tier racing league (IRL), and has won once and gotten onto the podium a bunch.

I'd have to really go look things up, but I expect that most drivers in CART/IRL never win a race in their entire career. Certainly that's true in F1, but the performance gap in the equipment between teams is relatively large in F1.

By that point in his career, Tony Kanaan (a mid-pack driver in CART but better in IRL) had won a couple of races but maybe podiumed less.

On the other hand, Dario Franchitti (a very good CART/IRL driver but who IIRC tested for F1 but didn't make the cut) had won ten races in his first seven years in CART/IRL.

And Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna (both candidates for Best Driver Ever) each won over thirty races in their first seven seasons of F1.

So somewhere between Kanaan and Franchitti, and more like Kanaan? Solid enough that she's not just a stunt or token and maybe better than average [Brockles may know better given the equipment she had], but in a different league of performance from eventual champions like Franchitti, who himself is not on the same planet as Schumacher or Senna.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:12 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just a bit more information from behind a paywall from one of the better rumours/news sites for racing:

Autoracing1 has 13 drivers with better odds for winning at Daytona than Danica. The full text of the article somewhat reflects the views I hear:
What? Danica not favored to win the 500? While Danica Patrick may be on pole for the Daytona 500, she is not exactly the darling of the sports bettors and no one, i.e. not a soul thinks, she will win the 500.
The day after shocking many in the racing world by winning the pole for the Daytona 500 in what many conspiracy theorists believe was preordained in the NASCAR Timing and Scoring computer software, Patrick was listed as an 18-1 long shot to win the race.

Thirteen drivers, headed by betting favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. at 17-2, are listed with better odds, according to the sports information and betting site Bovada.

Sprint Cup - Odds to win the Daytona 500 @ Daytona International Speedway

Dale Earnhardt Jr. No. 88 17:2
Jeff Gordon No. 24 11:1
Kyle Busch No. 18 11:1
Kevin Harvick No. 29 12:1
Tony Stewart No. 14 12:1
Brad Keselowski No. 2 14:1
Denny Hamlin No. 11 14:1
Clint Bowyer No. 15 15:1
Jimmie Johnson No. 48 15:1
Matt Kenseth No. 20 15:1
Carl Edwards No. 99 16:1
Greg Biffle No. 16 16:1
Kasey Kahne No. 5 16:1
Danica Patrick No. 10 18:1
Martin Truex Jr. No. 56 22:1
Jamie McMurray No. 1 25:1
Joey Logano No. 22 28:1
Kurt Busch No. 78 30:1
Jeff Burton No. 31 33:1
Mark Martin No. 55 33:1
Ryan Newman No. 39 33:1
Paul Menard No. 27 35:1
Trevor Bayne No. 21 35:1
Juan Pablo Montoya No. 42 40:1
Marcos Ambrose No. 9 40:1
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. No. 17 40:1
Aric Almirola No. 43 66:1
Austin Dillon No. 33 66:1
Regan Smith No. 51 66:1
Michael Waltrip No. 26 66:1
Casey Mears No. 13 75:1
David Ragan No. 34 100:1
Bobby Labonte No. 47 150:1
David Gilliland No. 38 150:1
Terry Labonte No. 32 150:1
Scott Speed No. 95 200:1
David Blaney No. 7 200:1
Josh Wise No. 35 200:1
David Reutimann No. 83 200:1
Joe Nemechek No. 87 300:1
Mike Bliss No. 19 300:1
Travis Kvapil No. 93 300:1
J.J. Yeley No. 36 300:1
Brian Keselowski No. 52 500:1"
The same site (and others) have been predicting Danica would be on poll to help ailing ratings for literally weeks. The exact same people also predicted (quite correctly) that Danica would be on pole for her first Nationwide event last year, adding (again correctly) that she'd not show similar form for the rest of the year.
posted by Brockles at 12:47 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


To be fair though, only 9 drivers have ever won Daytona from the pole...so, ya know, there's that.
posted by dejah420 at 4:39 PM on February 19, 2013


People bet on NASCAR? That must be a pretty infuriatingly frustrating way to bet on sports. Oops, your driver got caught up in a multi car accident he had absolutely no way to avoid and can't go on. Better luck next time!
posted by Drinky Die at 5:05 PM on February 19, 2013


Yeah, NASCAR is funny that way that winning a pole doesn't get you much besides money and a lot of press. But a lot of that seems to come down to the high number of yellows that compress the field more often than other forms of racing.

But as far as things like, "I'm saying that physical conditioning (i.e., strength, speed, endurance) is not one of the deciding factors in winning." goes, that's just silly.

Of course physical conditioning plays a big part.

I've seen the data from drivers that have been wired up the wazoo during races (I want to say it was the McGill study from back in the late 80s), and it's just staggering.

A race car driver has a heart rate during the race in the high 170s to the low 180s for hours at a time, and without a break. There are no time outs. There is no halftime. A drivers heart rate will drop down into the low to mid 150s during pit stops, but for no more than 20 seconds at a time. Their core body temps are just below dangerous levels of fever.

Former F1 and Sportscar racer, Jonathan Palmer, who is a medical doctor, once showed print out of telemetry data pulled from a race he ran to a fellow doc who was an attending ER physician. It showed heart rate, blood pressure and body temp. The ER doc was confused and thought that Palmer was showing him data just pulled from a patient who was currently in the hospitals care. The ER doc flipped out and said, 'We have to get this guy cooled down and calmed down or he's going to die if he hasn't died already." When Palmer told him what it really was, he thought Palmer was joking.

Most top level racing series have drink bottles in their cars. Why? Not because the drivers get thirsty, per se, but because they have to replace their fluids during a race. If they don't, they can lose up to 11 or 12 pounds in less than two and a half hours.

Nigel Mansell famously had his drink bottle fail at an F1 race, and when he got out of the car, he weighed 9 pounds less than when he got in. He was in the car for less than one hour and 45 minutes.

Speaking of Nigel Mansell, Did anyone catch the US GP back in the 80s when they thought running it in Texas in summer was a good idea? Mansell ran out of fuel within sight of the finish. So he got out to push it the 200 yards to cross the line. A few hundred feet later, he literally collapsed and passed out from heat prostration.

You think that if he had been in better shape, he would have passed out, what, ten yards later? Twenty? Could he have pushed it across the line and then collapsed if he was in just a little bi better shape?

I have seen races at the club level on a warmish day (low 70s), where guys would start to slow and then go slower and slower and then finally drop out and, pulling into the pits, have to be hauled out of their car by a couple of other people; they were wet and limp with exhaustion, barely able to move. Other racers, more fit racers drove on serenely, and finished the race. This is not a rare occurrence. I can't even count how many times I've seen this happen.

It's a sport. Of course you have to be in peak physical condition.
posted by Relay at 10:09 PM on February 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


But is it a valid argument to say that fitness/athleticism is "way down the list of factors determing winners" because "Danica Patrick". Nope, I don't think it is.

Swing and a miss. I wasn't saying, gee, Danica Patrick is a woman so it must not take strength to be a race car driver. If it had been Dan Patrick with the same size and build, he would have sufficed just as well.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:22 AM on February 20, 2013


So you're still not convinced fitness is a factor?
posted by Brockles at 9:53 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


This entire thread is giving me pangs of guilt about avoiding the work out room all winter. Test n' Tunes start in April. I will be getting my lazy a** down there when I get home tonight, then some quality time in the garage with donor car pulling parts. So much for just getting in the car and going left.
posted by empty vessel at 10:16 AM on February 20, 2013


I suppose we could run an experiment where we kidnap Vettel, tie him up so he can't exercise, feed him nothing but cheesburgers and pork rinds for a month, and then squeeze him back into the RB-Whateverthey'reupto and turn him loose on the track.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:17 AM on February 20, 2013


eriko (Re Dayton 500 qualifying/Shootouts/etc) It is, to be frank, silly.

Very true. However, there is much to be said in favor of doing some racing with only 21 cars before doing it with 43. Especially when it's a brand new car, and nobody is really sure how it will react in traffic. Or when it gets deformed/tires wear out/fuel load gets lighter. It's Spring Training for race teams....
posted by jlkr at 10:17 AM on February 20, 2013


It's a sport. Of course you have to be in peak physical condition.

“Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports ... all others are games.” - Hemingway
posted by empty vessel at 10:48 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


But the athleticism and conditioning of the drivers is not that extraordinary and is way, way down the list of factors determining winners. Otherwise, Danica Patrick.

...

I wasn't saying, gee, Danica Patrick is a woman so it must not take strength to be a race car driver.

Ok, I give up then....
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:54 AM on February 20, 2013


“Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports ... all others are games.” - Hemingway

Actually, here's the funny thing about that quote empty vessel.

A while back I was an auto and transportation writer for a fairly well known website and magazine. And that quote came up.

And my editor said, "You know that quote from Hemingway, the bullfighting and race car driving quote?"

And I said, "Yeah, of course."

"Do we KNOW that it was Hemingway that said that for sure?"

"Um. Well, I dunno, now that you mention it."

"Well look into it, will ya? We got standards here. We're professionals. We get the free lunches to show it."

So I did ... and it turns out that Hemingway didn't say it. It was a sports reporter working for a now defunct San francisco paper by the name of Sullivan who said it.

Years later, people just said that it sounded like something Hemingway would say, and it became misattributed to him.

[damned if I can find the source now though]
posted by Relay at 12:18 PM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, according to these guys, Danica isn't even the baddest woman in NASCAR.
posted by vitabellosi at 1:05 PM on February 20, 2013


So I did ... and it turns out that Hemingway didn't say it. It was a sports reporter working for a now defunct San Francisco paper by the name of Sullivan who said it.

Still a good quote not matter who said it. However it's funny how this stuff happens.

"We got standards here. We're professionals. We get the free lunches to show it."

That's an even better one!
posted by empty vessel at 1:07 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Still a good quote not matter who said it.

You think?

Let's test it.

“Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports ... all others are games.” - Ernest Hemingway

“Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports ... all others are games.” - Oscar Wilde

“Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports ... all others are games.” - Steve Jobs

“Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports ... all others are games.” - WillIAm
posted by notyou at 7:31 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


For anyone else confused by the chicken suit:
Overlooking his contract by not reading its specifics, Stroker begins a new life as the commercial face for the Chicken Pit fast-food restaurants. (The slogan on Stroker's car reads: "The Fastest Chicken in the South.") His contract proves to stipulate that he must do personal appearances, which include dressing up in a chicken suit--feet included.
posted by exogenous at 12:34 PM on February 21, 2013


Go Daddy is her chicken suit. It sucks, but there it is; you gotta dance with them what brung you.

I'll grant that, and certainly I'd rather see Patrick race under Go Daddy's sponsorship if the alternative is her not being able to race at all. On the other hand, Go Daddy's horrific attitude towards women in their advertisements makes this one a tough nut to swallow. Patrick's athleticism is utterly opposite from the vision of "GoDaddy Girls" used to entice customers to talk business with the real men of web hosting.
posted by zachlipton at 2:22 PM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


@notyou

I like -
"Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports ... all others are games.”
- Unknown
posted by empty vessel at 8:36 PM on February 21, 2013


"Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports ... all others are games.” - Steve Urkel

There are fat athletes in almost any sport - Football, being massively obese is practically a requirement for some positions, sone of the most successful power hitters and pitchers in baseball have been known for their paunch, if you have massive endurance and great co-ordination, you can be chubby on a pro basketball court or soccer pitch.

I can't think of a fat racecar driver. The conditioning required at the highest levels precludes it. Tony Stewart was a little overweight, but even he's pretty buff these days in order to keep competing.

Danica competing with the guys isn't like a woman place-kicker or knuckle-ball pitcher - it's like competing with the men in an endurance sport like cross country skiing. The car is an equalizer - men having longer legs or further reach isn't a factor - but it still demands peak mental and physical performance.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:43 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports ... all others are games.”
- Unknown


Or

"Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports ... all others are games.”
- Some fat guy with a beer
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:43 AM on February 22, 2013


I suppose we could run an experiment where we kidnap Vettel, tie him up so he can't exercise, feed him nothing but cheesburgers and pork rinds for a month, and then squeeze him back into the RB-Whateverthey'reupto and turn him loose on the track.
Wouldn't it be easier to just hire Montoya?
posted by fullerine at 8:34 AM on February 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports ... all others are games.”
-Socrates
posted by Drinky Die at 3:15 PM on February 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


New York Times: At least 28 people were injured in a crash at the end of a Nascar race at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday afternoon, bringing the issue of safety at racetracks back to the forefront on the eve of Sunday’s season-opening showcase, the Daytona 500.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:04 AM on February 24, 2013


SB Nation: Danica Patrick suffered an ignition issue on lap 40 under the caution to eliminate her from contention in Saturday’s DRIVE4COPD 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona.


A slightly lesser well known woman, Johanna Long, had a very strong race before being caught up in the crash at the end.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:18 AM on February 24, 2013


That was a pretty bad crash. I'm surprised at how easily Larson's car lifted. It would have been a much less problematic crash for car containment. I don't remember the previous generation of cars lifting quite so easily - the closing speed of the car that hit Larson and put it into the fence wasn't that great.

I wonder if they didn't get the aero right on the car when it spins. They spent a lot of time and development on the last model when it got backwards at speed (the little flaps and doohickies that came up to try and keep them on the floor). It lifted just too easily - I keep coming back to that.

Much as I think that ovals are stupid places for 3500lbs of car at over 200 mph (that's just too much energy, too close to people), if you're going to do that, then you do at least have to make sure that any on track incident is contained. That wasn't that dramatic a crash for the drivers in terms of potential for injury if the cars had just stayed on the floor and the spectators wouldn't have had any injuries. The fact that it got off track level is the issue. It takes more than a catch fence to stop that much weight going that fast.

Pack racing in Indycar is considered incredibly dangerous - it claimed the life of Dan Wheldon far too recently - yet NASCAR do it every weekend. With more energy in the cars (similar speed, far heavier cars). The way that the series bunch the cars up all the time just means these crashes are far too common and they've become part of the 'show' and I'm not sure they have a complete handle on how to contain the consequences.
posted by Brockles at 9:37 AM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, incidentally, NASCAR spent a lot of time trying to get all the Youtube videos that fans posted from within the stands that were hit, yesterday. Initially Youtube pulled them on a DCMA request then reinstated them upon inspection/call out from people with some perspective (some detail here).

Shitty PR cynicism from NASCAR, that. Very distasteful to try and claim copyright over something because you perceive it damages your brand. Considering just how many spectator videos of wrecks there are on Youtube it's pretty hard to believe that they were just doing that out of respect for the families of those involved (as they claimed when called out).
posted by Brockles at 9:52 AM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Race cars drivers are fit, but they are not elite physical specimens. It is a bit of a workout to drive a stick car, but not like running a marathon.
posted by humanfont at 11:23 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Heh. Jimmie Johnson turned a few extra laps at Daytona.

He just left the No. 48 car in the garage.

Johnson, the five-time Cup champion, was one of a handful of NASCAR personalities that ran early Sunday morning in the Daytona Beach half marathon. Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne, Michael Waltrip and Aric Almirola ditched the firesuit for running clothes. The half marathon started and finished at the famed 2 1/2-mile superspeedway. The 13.1-mile course also goes to the beach and back.

They finished hours before Daytona 500 qualifying started.

posted by Drinky Die at 11:33 AM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Danica finished 8th. Very strong race, was near the front all day. Should be fun to watch her this season.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:40 PM on February 24, 2013


Well, Danica had a pretty strong race, everything considered.

She looked more comfortable in traffic than in the past, so there's some growth there for her as a driver (which is always nice to see).
posted by Relay at 1:42 PM on February 24, 2013


Race cars drivers are fit, but they are not elite physical specimens. It is a bit of a workout to drive a stick car, but not like running a marathon.

Did you even read any of the other posts? Top level motorsports driving is more strenuous that running a marathon. It is not, in any way, 'driving a stick car'.
posted by Brockles at 2:01 PM on February 24, 2013


Race cars drivers are fit, but they are not elite physical specimens. It is a bit of a workout to drive a stick car, but not like running a marathon.

ITo add to Brockles, again, Jensen ran a sub-4.5 hour half ironman. That is more effort than a marathon (let me tell you, doing a full Ironman felt a little like death) and was a mere spinoff of his general fitness work. Were he to stop doing that, I'm sure McLaren would be sacking him fairly shortly.
posted by jaduncan at 2:12 PM on February 24, 2013


Top level motorsports driving is more strenuous that running a marathon.

I don't think anything was posted to show this. Can you point to the evidence?
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:36 PM on February 24, 2013


From an F1 doctor:

"You work closely with the drivers, so how fit does a Formula One driver need to be?

RC: There is no other sport in the world which compares to the demands Formula One puts on the heart. The heat rate of a top driver can average over 180bpm for a race distance of 90 minutes or more. This is huge and no other sport keeps a heart rate so high for such a long time. On top of that there is a lot of muscle work for the whole body - heavy work for neck muscles to cope with the g-forces, high loads on legs and arms and good lumbar strength to stabilise the body. A normal person could do two or three laps in a Formula One car under those stresses before physically they couldn't continue."

and

"If a driver is not completely fit, how would that affect his performance?

RC: The affect on the driver is really subtle and difficult to see. Before I worked with Toyota, I saw a driver who was starting the race after having a very bad infection for four days. He lost a lot of fluids and he arrived on Sunday feeling really bad, but he had to start. He told me after the race that he felt he could collapse at any point but he finished in the top six because he had a good car. When a driver who is normally super fit is sick, he is likely to be four tenths - maximum half a second - slower than usual in the race."
posted by jaduncan at 2:48 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]




Maybe formula one, but not NASCAR. Dale Earnhardt was 49 and dominating the sport when he died. He was 6'1" and weighed about 185. NASCAR and Formula one are very different racing sports.
posted by humanfont at 5:12 PM on February 24, 2013


NASCAR and Formula one are very different racing sports.

Yes. I have said as much lots of times in this very thread, but you claimed that 'race car drivers' are not notably fit, not 'NASCAR drivers'.

However, while NASCAR's physical demands are much lower than F1, they are still considerable. 12 years is a very long time in motorsports development and the cars are harder and more demanding to drive, and general driver fitness demands are enormously higher than a decade or more ago.
posted by Brockles at 5:23 PM on February 24, 2013


NASCAR is less demanding on both a technical and physical level (and, accordingly, the drivers aren't quite as good), but that doesn't mean that NASCAR isn't still extremely demanding.

500 miles is a bit longer than the 305 kilometre F1 limit, and the winning Daytona time this year was 3:08:23. The women's marathon world record is 2:15:25 (Paula Radcliffe, London). It's not hard to see that the physical demands are those of a high level endurance event for both.
posted by jaduncan at 5:28 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Race cars drivers are fit, but they are not elite physical specimens. It is a bit of a workout to drive a stick car, but not like running a marathon.

Elite physical specimens.
posted by Etrigan at 5:30 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


jaduncan: "500 miles is a bit longer than the 305 kilometre F1 limit"

500 miles is more than twice as long as 300 kilometres.
posted by Mitheral at 6:24 PM on February 24, 2013


Yes. That was some of the British understatement I understand we are famed for.
posted by jaduncan at 9:01 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


*facepalm*
posted by Mitheral at 9:06 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sweet Jesus Brockles, the last time I saw someone walk all over the competition like that, it was Jimmy Clark at Indy in 63 ...
posted by Relay at 10:25 PM on February 24, 2013


Whether NASCAR is physically demanding isn't really the issue. Those of us who are questioning the physical demands of NASCAR or racing in general are questioning the claim that the demands are such that they explain the lack of women. Either Danica Patrick is a freak of nature or the lack of women has a huge cultural component.
posted by hoyland at 6:17 AM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Those of us who are questioning the physical demands of NASCAR or racing in general are questioning the claim that the demands are such that they explain the lack of women.

Whether NASCAR (and racing in general) is physically demanding IS the issue, though, if the question is whether those demands preclude different sexes from competing equally. There are a lot of people that see Danica's involvement as a triumph over inherent sexism in the sport and that women can be just as good as men in it, so they're convinced it's just because they haven't been given a chance that they can't compete equally.

This is not (entirely) true. It is a position based purely on a lack of understanding of the physical demands of driving a race car - they assume it isn't hard, so there is no reason why the sexes shouldn't have parity if physical strength isn't an issue. But all physical sports that have a high strength+endurance requirement allow men to compete at a higher level than women. Frame size and all kinds of genetic differences has made that apparent through the years and there are reams and reams of athletic competition data to support that parity of competition isn't possible. So unless you understand the physical conditioning needed to be competitive, how can you make a judgment on whether women and men both can attain that level equally?

So to address 'if the physical demands explains the lack of women' you must first understand the physical demands. It's clear from this thread (and a lot of the media) that the general public do not at all understand those demands. So they think that within racing there is no physical barrier to women. But there is. Yes, there are other barriers to equality (especially within NASCAR, but maybe now they've seen the money they'll switch that right around) but that is not the single biggest thing by far preventing a more equal number of women in racing.

Now, NASCAR is one of the better sports for women, perhaps, because it is based on ovals (so more endurance based) and in a relatively less demanding set of loadings than higher forms of racing. So there is a higher chance of ability to compete in NASCAR. That, perhaps, is why Danica did fairly well at Daytona. But in the rest of racing the physical side is way bigger and the racing world is a much, much more varied and demanding place than just NASCAR. It is very big in profile, but in technology and character a niche area of the sport. It is not representative of motor racing in general by any stretch of the imagination.

Women do (to a lesser or greater degree depending on the series) have an immediate disadvantage in motor racing physically. Only the really, really fit and strong women with the most talent and car control have a chance of competing. Of course, only the really fit and strong men with the most talent and car control also have a chance of competing, but the physical element means a smaller sub set of women have the matching characteristics than men. As such, the pool of available drivers immediately favour the males. Once you have pruned the available talent pool to whatever proportions it is, it gets further pruned to consider aptitude, interest in the sport, opportunity for sponsorship, family money required to get past the initial stages and also being in the right time and place for advancement opportunities. It is very, very hard to climb the motorsports ladder for anyone and only the really good, the really lucky or the really rich tend to make it.

Maybe 40 years ago, when physical demands were much less, women couldn't have competed equally because no-one was interested in supporting a woman in racing and sexism (and racism) was rife within US motorsport (and particularly in NASCAR) and this was matched to a lesser degree in world motorsports. But the advances in race cars means that the physical demands have risen across the board now, and fitness is just as important in the first step of the race car ladder than it has ever been. While the social environment over recent years has much reduced the sexism element of the female barrier in motor racing, the physiological side has filled in the gap and retained the disadvantage. It's not just when it gets to the top that physical strength comes into play it's an issue all through their career these days. It used to be that unfit drivers could progress and suddenly have a wake up call and have to start doing it 'properly' when they got much further up the ladder without it being more than a hiccup to their progression. Now, a talented and unfit driver is likely to be beaten by a slightly lesser talented (or just richer) driver enough in their initial career to be passed over for opportunities later and they fall by the wayside.

It doesn't matter if you are a boy, girl, man or woman in lower formulae. If you don't win, you don't get to progress unless you can entirely pay your way. So you need to be VERY rich if you aren't also very good. Sometimes you also need to be lucky.

I think that Danica (and to a lesser extent - for different reason - Pippa Mann, Katherine Legge and Simona De Silvestro) hit the golden age of racing for the balance between sufficiently advanced empowerment and profile of women in motor sport with the beginnings of the super-fit driver requirements. They would have struggled to get as high up as they have further back in motor racing history because there was a lot of issues with taking women drivers seriously. However, it will be harder than it was 10 years ago (when they moved through the lower ranks) to make the kind of splash they did as drivers at the time. There is no question that women drivers get more media exposure than men currently, but that will fade soon because the novelty will wear off. As it should, if women want to be considered equal. If you're equal to the men, the only thing you should get exposure for is your results - same as everyone else. So the pressure will be to perform at the lower formulae just as well as the men, but the physical disadvantages are still there. It will take an 'extra' fit women to be able to compete equally with men - Look at Lindsey Vons for a decent comparison. There is a woman that is incredibly good at what she does and is arguably able to compete (and I think wants to) in the Mens events. Which is great, and all that, but she's also pretty much destroying the female competition. There is an argument that it is possible for a woman to compete with the men, but being as she is so extraordinary, it's also an argument that only a select few can compete equally. Such as it is in motor racing. Yes, there is a possibility of overlap between the sexes, but the best female competitor will trail the best male competitor as physical elements increase in importance.

So while I do think we will have a greater number of women racers over the next few years - partially through the influence and role models of Patrick, Legge, De Silvestro, Mann etc - to make the leap that lots of people are making that "Aha, now women can be equal to me in racing" is flawed. The less physical styles of racing (NASCAR perhaps, Street-based saloon/tin top racing etc) may show more female involvement but there won't be parity across motor sports as a whole. It isn't about just competing when you get to the top, it's being better all the way up the ladder with the same physical barrier to overcome.
posted by Brockles at 7:43 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


It also bears noting that potential sponsors would *love* the amount of media exposure that a female champion or genuine contender would get. That means lots and lots of money, which means team owners begging people to sign.
posted by jaduncan at 8:07 AM on February 25, 2013


Maybe 40 years ago, when physical demands were much less...

This is an honest question, not an attempt to snark -- have the physical demands really grown, given that the times in NASCAR don't seem to have dropped in that time? Johnson won Daytona in 3:08:23 this year -- Richard Petty won it in 3:10:50 in 1973, and neither time appears to be particularly different from others in its time. The Daytona 500 record was set in 1980, and no one's broken three hours (in a full race) in 15 years.
posted by Etrigan at 9:11 AM on February 25, 2013


Clearly google seems to be broken:

Oh, the Internet. Well, then.

You know, very early on in this discussion, I tried to point to peer-reviewed literature to address this, not opinion pieces with little bits of anecdata sprinkled in and no scientific approach to evaluation. I'm done now.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:34 AM on February 25, 2013


no one's broken three hours (in a full race) in 15 years.

There are several extra factors. That is overall race time, don't forget, and doesn't tell you how long was spent under yellow (ie at much reduced speeds). Also, Daytona is one of the lesser demanding races being as it is restrictor plate and flat out the whole way around. It's not the best example of the demands of NASCAR and when you're artificially restricted to a certain speed you can't make great gains.

A lot of time and effort has been made with NASCAR and other series is trying to keep speeds down as technology has increased. The cars have got harder to drive as they got faster, then regs changed to bring speeds down again. But as you limit things, the little elements play much more of a deciding factor. Racing is about reduction of variation and trying to push every element to the optimum amount. Consistency has become far more important during this period and that consistency is demanded of the driver also. That is a not-insubstantial physical and mental strain.

no scientific approach to evaluation. I'm done now.

I doubt that even if I forced you to run a marathon yourself and then tried to get you to drive a race car to experience it yourself that you'd even be convinced, frankly. Your position is just flat-out wrong, and I've put more than enough information your way for you to be convinced. Yet you still sneer at qualified and experienced people (and lots of them) and even people with direct personal experience and claim it isn't quite the flavour of proof you need. I'm done trying to educate you about something you clearly don't want to be educated about.
posted by Brockles at 9:52 AM on February 25, 2013


Etrigan: "given that the times in NASCAR don't seem to have dropped in that time?

Stock cars haven't been anything goes "stock" since 1970. Not even then really but NASCAR took a serious nerf bat to the the cars in the summer of 70 for the 71 season because the cars had gotten too fast. And ever since they've been nerfing any technological advance that speeds the cars up. The most obvious expression of this being the restrictor plate on super speedways.

Unlimited factory support of any sort of car they could homologate would probably have races with speeds regularly exceeding 250 miles per hour if you could find anyone to drive them.
posted by Mitheral at 10:19 AM on February 25, 2013


I suspect that if you tried to get MW or me to drive an F1 car we wouldn't find it terribly straining, because all we could do is stall it over and over.

If we somehow could get it going to race speed, we would probably just hit something and manage to die screaming just to spite the safety equipment.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:20 AM on February 25, 2013


This is an honest question, not an attempt to snark -- have the physical demands really grown,

David Pearson
won a pile of major NASCAR events back in the day, and a few championships. The story I remember hearing about him is how he'd generally lay back for the first few hundred miles. Then, maybe at around the 3/4 point of the race, he'd light himself a cigarette and get down to business.
posted by philip-random at 11:30 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The top two finishers in the Daytona 500 are both close to 40 years old. Jeff Johnson's 1:28 HG marathon time was about 20-30 minutes behind competitive runners in more significant half marathons like the 3M in Austin. No puff peice from the Daily Mail about how these guys are actually super athletes is going to change the fact that their workout and physical training hours are just not nearly as high as other spots like Tennis, Swimming, running, etc.
posted by humanfont at 2:15 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jeff Johnson's 1:28 HG marathon time was about 20-30 minutes behind competitive runners in more significant half marathons like the 3M in Austin.

This means I ran a faster half marathon than Jeff Johnson...without training for it. Believe me, I am not a top athlete, or even a middle third athlete.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:29 PM on February 25, 2013


You guys are making out like that is some kind of point. Sports are about the sport, and sport specific skills are by far the bulk of any training that an athlete is engaged in. Athleticism never just boils down to strength, speed, and agility; it's about application. Because otherwise forget practice, we could toss a bunch of people into a gym and pull the strongest/fastest/most agile ones out and throw them into random sports. I could probably out lift plenty of competitive swimmers, but that doesn't mean they aren't highly trained athletes or that somehow proves competitive swimming doesn't require training. Not only are you guys equivocating, you're falsely equivocating.

Also, plenty of top level athletes are near 40 years old, but I don't know what that is supposed to prove or disprove.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:49 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm confused. Jeff Johnson or Jimmie?
posted by Brockles at 3:51 PM on February 25, 2013


Jimmie Johnson finished the marathon in 1m29. He'd already competed in several sessions and a race at that point, yet was able to pull that sort of time.

Also, he was smack in the middle of the most important race event of his season. Do you really think he was giving his all? Really?
posted by Brockles at 3:55 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, I'm a day late and probably a dollar short to this discussion, but if you're really interested in the original discussion about whether the lack of women is cultural, you may find this Washington Post article interesting.


Danica Patrick is out front at Daytona. But the women of NASCAR have miles to go. There’s an old saying in motor sports: “Speed costs money. How fast do you want to go?”

That helps explain why Danica Patrick is where she is today — and why it took so long for a female racer to break a NASCAR record I [Janet Guthrie] set more than three decades ago
...
Since then, many capable female drivers have come and gone — it’s not that there’s been a lack of talent. And it’s not just that the racing world is conservative or sexist, although those elements are there. The explanation lies in the extremely expensive nature of the sport. Patrick is the first woman who has been able to summon the mega-dollars necessary to field a front-running car, and last Sunday she made the most of it.

posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 9:43 PM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Jeff Johnson's 1:28 HG marathon time was about 20-30 minutes behind competitive runners in more significant half marathons like the 3M in Austin.

To be perfectly fair, that's 30 minutes behind the world record in the half marathon, not just "competitive runners."

This means I ran a faster half marathon than Jeff Johnson...without training for it. Believe me, I am not a top athlete, or even a middle third athlete.

You're starting to parse your argument out of existence. How many NFL players do you think break an hour and a half for a half marathon? Care to say they're not "top athletes"?

For perspective, running a distance race you don't normally compete in at 150 percent of the world record time was Lance Armstrong's pace. Care to say he's not a "top athlete"?
posted by Etrigan at 6:11 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


3M half marathon results. 150 finishers were ahead of Johnson's Pace. The Armstrong pace you use is from a full marathon for comparison he ran a half marathon last year at 1:15
posted by humanfont at 6:56 AM on February 26, 2013


So you're saying that because 150 people who train for that actual athletic event and are probably not competing in their actual livelihood that same day are better at it than Johnson, he's not really an athlete. And further proof that he's not really an athlete is that he finished 13 minutes off the pace of one of the greatest endurance athletes of all time who has been specifically training for that actual athletic event as well.
posted by Etrigan at 7:45 AM on February 26, 2013


Also, was Armstrong in the middle of a cycling event when he completed a half marathon?

Do any of the NFL footballers compete in triathlons the day after a football game?

I find it incredible that despite the fact that these guys compete in the same kind of event you claim they are not fit enough for (yet attain a respectable time for their age group) on the same damn day that they are competing in the biggest event in their year that is widely reported (by anyone other than you two, basically) as a tough endurance event, yet you still think they are something akin to couch potatoes.

It's mind boggling. Not one bit of evidence to support your arguments, reams and reams to counter it. Yet you still sit there dismissing all of it 'just because' you think you're right? Astonishing.
posted by Brockles at 7:55 AM on February 26, 2013


They don't because football is a sport that actually destroys your body by the time you reach your mid-30s. I'm not claiming NASCAR are not fit, well trained or in good health. However the level of fitness, strength and other physical attributes required to compete at the highest levels is not on the as level as most other sports. The advantage confirred by men's higher testosterone levels in other sports is very clear. We can also see a clear decline in non-doping athletes in these sports as they age through their 30s. Drivers are much less dependent on these physical skills. Their careers seem to start to decline only as vision and reaction time slows in the 40s.

Are you seriously suggesting that NASCAR drivers would significantly improve their track times and race standings by taking anabolic steroids?
posted by humanfont at 10:38 AM on February 26, 2013


However the level of fitness, strength and other physical attributes required to compete at the highest levels is not on the as level as most other sports.

Please, list the "other sports" that they're not on the same level as, and the "other physical attributes," which apparently don't include vision or reaction time.

Are you seriously suggesting that NASCAR drivers would significantly improve their track times and race standings by taking anabolic steroids?

Is that your definition of a sport? Something where anabolic steroids improve performance?

Just make it easy on everyone, yourself included, and admit that you're going to continue to move the finish line whenever anyone approaches it: "They're not as athletic as marathoners." "Here's some NASCAR drivers who run marathons." "Yeah, but they don't run them fast." Of course they don't. They're not full-time marathon runners. How do you think Haile Gebrselassie would do at Daytona, even though he's still in his 30s?
posted by Etrigan at 10:54 AM on February 26, 2013


As an aside, because it doesn't have to do with the physical requirements for drivers, steroids can definitely be an issue for pit crews. This is a team sport after all.

Where steroids could come into play, Yesalis said, is with pit crews, whose strength and agility are often the difference between victory and defeat. And the crew members are definitely athletes - Newman's crew includes Bryan White, a former University of Virginia linebacker who was part of the Jets' rookie minicamp in 2006, and former Davidson College shortstop Ben Brown.

"Everyone's an athlete, and has to be," Newman said of his pit crew. "The gas man, he's got 80 pounds of fuel (on his shoulder) and is trying to hit a three-inch hole without spilling the first drop. That's athleticism."


Drivers are more likely to be using stimulants as performance enhancers, which is also common among other forms of athletics.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:59 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


...yet you still think they are something akin to couch potatoes.

Ah, I see the problem now. We say reasonable things based on scientific papers and logic that seem to imply that most race car drivers, though they may be fairly fit human beings in the grand scheme of things, are not top athletes, and you hear the straw man in your mind say "Race car drivers are couch potatoes."

Listen, I understand that you love racing competition, that you have a great deal of admiration and respect for the drivers and that they, like most of us, perform better when they are fit. Maybe we should just leave it at that.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:04 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think one problem is differing conceptions of what it means to be a top athlete. I think the best curlers are top athletes, at curling. (and they dope!)

You are making more sense when you refer to "top physical specimens" but that still depends heavily on the sport involved or even the position involved when talking about a sport like football with diverse positions. Or look at basketball where the top specimens will have physical attributes like being very tall, which may not be particularly useful in other forms of competition like horse racing. It's somewhat arbitrary to pick a small group of attributes and not consider others when looking at the big picture across sports.

Saying the demands are not extreme enough that woman should not be able to compete with men sounds pretty reasonable to me, but I don't think that makes the label "not top athletes" apply.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:21 AM on February 26, 2013


I like it when people say "Im done" and then keep right on going. That's the kind of endurance and stamina we need more of in marathons and auto racing!
posted by davejay at 11:37 AM on February 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


We say reasonable things based on scientific papers and logic that seem to imply that most race car drivers, though they may be fairly fit human beings in the grand scheme of things, are not top athletes, and you hear the straw man in your mind say "Race car drivers are couch potatoes."

Yeah, let's discuss scientific papers. Specifically, the one you linked to:
"Professional open-wheel race drivers possess cardiorespiratory capacity similar to athletes participating in sports such as basketball, football, and baseball. The VO2 and HR responses to road course driving were similar to those previously reported in traditional sports settings. The findings of this study suggest that professional open-wheel racing drivers should be regarded as athletes that encounter significant physiological stresses."

I don't know about Brockles, but the straw man in my head is saying "These people have decided that auto racing is not a sport and that drivers are not athletes, and they will take any rhetorical measures necessary to 'prove' that, up to and including ignoring evidence that they themselves introduce to the argument."
posted by Etrigan at 11:47 AM on February 26, 2013


they, like most of us, perform better when they are fit. Maybe we should just leave it at that.

No, because that's flat out wrong. They will not be effective or perform at even close to a professional level for professional racing unless they are extremely fit - of a comparable level of fitness of either a very good athlete or an olympic level athlete depending on the level.

It's not just that they 'would be better' if they were fit. They would be physically unable to handle a race car in competition if they are not of a very high physical fitness level. You're just not getting it and you're wrong in your perception of something that I do for a living and have done for 25 years. A beginner race car driver would be better if they were fit. An amateur weekend driver would be much better if they were fit. A professional race driver who is not extremely fit and a top athlete would be almost ineffective.

We say reasonable things based on scientific papers and logic

Logic doesn't seem to include reading the numerous other papers on racing drivers from that very site you linked to that more than prove the real position that I have been trying to explain to you. A simple search brought them up.
posted by Brockles at 11:56 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


We say reasonable things based on scientific papers and logic that seem to imply that most race car drivers, though they may be fairly fit human beings in the grand scheme of things, are not top athletes

Again, I train racing drivers for a living. I have spent my entire working life around professional race car drivers competing at nearly every level globally. Yet you're saying that you know better than me because you read something on the internet.

Seriously?
posted by Brockles at 12:03 PM on February 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


they, like most of us, perform better when they are fit. Maybe we should just leave it at that.

I rowed for my college. My vo2 max capped at 68. To give you some perspective, I was expected to be able to row at around 80-85% of MHR (down for pacing, up for sprints) with good form for an hour to 90 minutes. We trained for 2 hours so we could race for 60. It isn't surprising; in any competition that requires mental effort to sustain technical excellence you absolutely will be ineffective when fatigued enough compared to people who have physical reserves.

60+ is getting good. Sportscenter apparently tested NASCAR driver Carl Edwards out at 65.7. This should point you to the fact that even NASCAR drivers are maintaining an excellent level of fitness.

Brockles, any of your own ballpark vo2 target figures for different classes?
posted by jaduncan at 12:49 PM on February 26, 2013


There's some stuff I found quickly here for F1 - producing 70kW they're expected to top 60 (doesn't say how long for).

But in motorsports you have dedicated personal trainers (either per team, per driver or sometimes a consultancy like Pitfit), so I don't get much into the specifics as race engineer. They know what the demands are and what level you need to be at for the various levels. I've always recommended my drivers train equivalent to the level above which they are competing at and these levels are pretty well known - I don't know the levels, just send them away back to their trainer with a flea in their ears if they aren't fit enough. Much the same as we do with engines: "This one is no good, give me a faster one". ;) Usually, though, they say what they are racing in, where they want to train to and the specialist motorsport trainers know their stuff. It's very, very different to normal training athletic training, I am told.

One of my old drivers is moving up from Formula 3 to GP2 and despite being one of the fittest drivers I have ever had has really had to work on his fitness the last few years. I can probably get some information from him as to how he trains for the level below F1 if you ask me what sort of thing to get from him.
posted by Brockles at 1:17 PM on February 26, 2013


producing 70kW they're expected to top 60

Heh, and the rest. I suspect this is McLaren being polite to the journalist/not giving away their actual target to other teams; 60 wouldn't see you through that much of a race especially given that they are coping with oxygen uptake after having all the air squeezed out by high-g braking and turns.

VO2 max should be fitness/cardio based rather than specific training based so it's a bit more of a cross sport measure. I was fit but even playing around on a Formula Blue kart things started to hurt in my arms very quickly just because of the difference in muscles.

That said, MHR percentage/average for the race, peak MHR and VO2 max would be genuinely fascinating. I'm aware that the driver is probably identifiable from the above posts though, so no harm no foul if it can't happen for NDA reasons (or indeed if it's just a hassle).
posted by jaduncan at 3:24 PM on February 26, 2013


I've asked him. He is in a well established programme in Europe and they have a very good technical side to their programme, so maybe he'll be able to help out. I know he's away testing at the moment so it may be a few days before he gets back to me.
posted by Brockles at 6:00 AM on February 27, 2013


Info back from the driver (clearly he's not on track today and is bored at a hotel, apparently).

Context of this driver - really smart young man that I have known since he was very young. Grown considerably in capabilities and has always been an incredibly driven and focussed driver: he has just completed two seasons in Formula 3 (two steps below Formula 1 and two steps up from where you start in cars so mid level race driver competing at a professional level within that sport). He is stepping up to one level below F1 this season. I ran him in his first race car series several years ago (in the very first level of race cars out of karting) and was 'fittest in his school athletics team' when he arrived but was utterly exhausted after about 4 hours over a 7 hour period - unable to turn the wheel properly or accurately, unable to hit his reference points with the car repeatably etc almost to the point of needing help to get out of the car. He wasn't just slow, he was dangerous to himself as he was just unable to hold onto the car. We had 16 hours of track time over two days planned and he managed to get through 4 on the first day (3 usefully, the last one with him being stubborn that he wasn't tired) and 3 on the second day. The sole reason we were only able to get around 40% of the planned track time in was his lack of physical condition. His recall of the car went from 'pretty good for a beginner' to 'more than a bit confused' after about 2 hours. The more he was in the car, the longer he needed to get the stuff he was supposed to do completed - at the beginning, he could try a car change or a technique and understand it in 5 laps. By the end of the day he needed a 10 lap run just to get enough laps in to try it properly and was unable to give me accurate reporting of what happened at the end of each run. A few times he even forgot what he was supposed to try and had to go back out on track again. At that stage, it is a waste of tyres and fuel to keep your driver in the car so you let them rest. He was unable to talk to me on the radio unless he was on the straights and it took too much mental effort (and tired him more) to switch between talking about the car and actually driving it that we only did post-run debriefs to give him a chance to concentrate. I had to watch where I keyed the radio because if I spoke to him right before a braking area he could miss his braking point.

By the end of the second season with him, he could lap at qualifying pace in 5 lap runs with 5-10 minute breaks for as long as the track was open. As fast as we could change the car he could go back out and perform as if he was fresh. He was energetic and still articulate and had good recall at the end of day debrief. He could remember and describe the different changes and how it made the car feel throughout the day even from hours earlier. He could talk to me on the radio at all points on the track about pretty much anything (including cracking rude jokes with me) without any discernible effect on his lap times or driving. His body shape and conditioning change in that period was staggering and it made ENORMOUS amounts of improvement to his performance. It's indicative of his character that as soon as he was shown how it could benefit him, training has an become an obsession of his.

I asked him for a brief/rough description of the kind of training he does for F3 and how to explain it to someone that doesn't understand the athletic requirements - again, this is halfway between not being a race car driver and being in F1. Probably the equivalent of ARCA in NASCAR progression ladder terms. I made some notes (not in italics) to try and stop this being too googleable and to add context.

"I can complete the cycling tests we have here at (professional programme he trains with) consisting of 20mins with the last step being 250watts... (pretty hard after 20 minutes of building from 60watts+70+80... etc.)
Our winch test (bike for the arms essentially) is also a very good way to see arm/shoulder endurance as it is another progressive watt test like the bike to see our maximum capability before complete fatigue. I am one of the few drivers to complete it with 200+ watt at the final stage. (again 17 minutes of progressive inclination of wattage).
I had to train very specifically for what a driver does and the muscles they use the most. (neck, shoulders, forearms). I train twice a day 5-6days a week. (50+km bike rides, running +10km, circuit training, interval training, soccer, weights, dynamic stretching....)
The cardio side of things is one of the most important because of the high stress levels and g-forces one experiences while driving (and being sharp at the same time). As the cars get faster, the stress levels amplify as do the G-forces.
My average heart rate during a 45min non-stop F3 race would be at 170-180 BMP (beats per minute). Which is really high considering my max is around 195.

Also as a driver, it's difficult to sense when you are getting tired from how much you are concentrating. Sometimes drivers will have some understeer at the end of the day even if nothing on the car has changed, but mostly it can be from him not having enough strength to put more steering angle on. Then the reaction time goes.. (not correcting fast enough/lack of anticipation).
Drivers need to be overly fit so these signs never come into play.

Modern F3 cars can hit 3g max laterally and almost the same in braking, whereas
(cars related to the level he is looking to move to which you can see in this video in a MUCH slower car than we are talking about) can hit 3.5-4 g lat. and up to 4g long.
To put things in hindsight, the average high end sports car can hit maybe 1g. So get in a Ferrari, go through corner 2 at mosport
(almost flat out, scary as hell corner in Canada) as fast as you can, then multiply it by 4... Then do that for 40mins to an hour."

The idea that race car drivers aren't athletes is laughable to a professional race car driver, even one who is competing two levels down from F1. Even the same one when he was competing at the lowest levels of open wheel racing. He was one of the fittest 18 year olds in his sports programme at school and was floored by less then half a days testing. So maybe that will be enough information for the naysayers here to realise they're way off the mark.
posted by Brockles at 7:47 AM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


The 90%+ MHR is impressive (although probably slightly elevated by heat), and the power tests also look good. Well done, he's a credit to you and himself...and for the record he looks like he has the stats to knock out a marathon if required.
posted by jaduncan at 6:23 AM on February 28, 2013


He's done half marathons for charity but they did it as a team so the time wasn't exceptional. I was taking the piss out of him yesterday for the 'old days' when he was huffing and puffing and he says he's so much fitter now that it's really hard for him to imagine how he could have driven how he was before.

He posted a shot of himself in the gym today as a result of all this discussion and the bloody kid looks like he's made of sculpted marble. It's ridiculous.
posted by Brockles at 7:31 AM on February 28, 2013


Wow, I left this thread alone as done a long time ago and come back to see the debate raged on in a really heated fashion.

I wish I could buy someone a beer. Not the people that someone trains however, they've got to keep their eye on the prize.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:11 PM on March 1, 2013


Interesting point to note - Danica qualified 40th out of 43 at the next race. 7 of the other top 10 qualifiers are in the top 10 at Phoenix, however. Daytona is a flat out track (100% full throttle, little skill involved by comparison) and Phoenix requires speed changes and slowing/speeding back up. It's a much harder track, from what I understand.

Make of that what you will.
posted by Brockles at 4:57 PM on March 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


She wasn't doing terrible during the actual race, she was running in the mid to high twenties most of the day before she blew a tire and hit the wall hard.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:19 PM on March 3, 2013


Don't get me wrong - I don't think that Danica is terrible at all. Maybe that's not so clear from my posts. The bit that drives me mad is how she is portrayed as the Great Female Driving Hope and that she has earned her way to the top through immense talent despite all the sexism and difficulties of a female driver.

Danica is a solid number 2 or 3 team driver. She's not particularly good (for a driver, sex irrelevant) but she's not awful. However, she has got almost all of her breaks through being first wealthy and then through being a massively dominant marketing force that is lapped up and incredibly sellable in the fame obsessed US culture (see Hello Magazine et al). She's not at all the best driver out there, but she's not even the best female driver out there.

When I hear people ask if she is interested in F1, I am amused enormously, then nod sagely at Danica's very smart answers that she is 'just not interested in F1'. No, she's not. Because she isn't even half as good as she'd need to be and she knows that damn well. She is a very, very smart cookie and knows where the money and the fame works best for her. Better to be a mid field NASCAR or Indycar driver than get thrown out of F1 in three races because she's slow.
posted by Brockles at 5:35 PM on March 3, 2013


Well, I'm just a casual fan so I'm not gonna argue with ya, but I feel like her NASCAR career has been way to short to really figure where her skill ceiling is. It's going to be fun to watch however she does. But yeah, it was hilarious seeing the promos for next week saying Jimmie Johnson and Danica Patrick are leading NASCAR to Vegas. One of these things is not like the other.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:50 PM on March 3, 2013


"Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports ... all others are games.”
- Danica Patrick : P '''

Better to be a mid field NASCAR or Indycar driver than get thrown out of F1 in three races because she's slow.

Professional Motorsports is interesting as there really hasn't been a substantial movement to create a separate space for women to compete against each other. The NHRA is seeing the emergence of several top female drivers. My point is there is more that keeps women out direct competition then men. NASCAR's one of the few places where women have broken in against male resistance. It's not just about physical ability and skill. I'm pretty sure a female F1 driver is not distant reality.

I really don't see female NFL, NBA, or MLB players directly competing with men being embraced any time soon. Add golf to that list as well.
posted by empty vessel at 3:01 PM on March 5, 2013


I'm pretty sure a female F1 driver is not distant reality.

Bernie Ecclestone would beat the door down to a female driver that was capable of holding her own in F1 with a truck full of gold bricks of sponsorship money. He'd personally pay for a ride for one if it wouldn't make the sport look bad - the recent female test drivers have attested to as much. It's a marketing gold mine. But at present, there isn't anyone good enough. Again, my bet for most likely is Simona De Silvestro, but lets see how she matures. No-one else out there is anywhere near good enough, from what I see.
posted by Brockles at 7:39 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bernie Ecclestone would beat the door down to a female driver that was capable of holding her own in F1 with a truck full of gold bricks of sponsorship money.

Given that one has to wonder why someone hasn't just put a self sponsored female driver in at one of the back of the pack F1 teams. That way they can blame the car/team when they don't win but cash in on the marketing value.
posted by empty vessel at 3:42 PM on March 6, 2013


Given that one has to wonder why someone hasn't just put a self sponsored female driver in at one of the back of the pack F1 teams. That way they can blame the car/team when they don't win but cash in on the marketing value.

There's two drivers per team, and they are also racing against each other so any individual driver weakness would be quickly exposed. Marussia did have Maria de Villota as a test driver but she was involved in a freak accident involving her F1 car suddenly accelerating into a truck and lost an eye. Maria was another driver who was good enough to drive in various other series, but couldn't make the cut for even a Marussia drive.

The other thing to note is that bad F1 cars are not easier to drive, and driver standards are still incredibly high at the back of the pack (see Heikki Kovalainen's move from McLaren to then-Lotus/now-Caterham F1).
posted by jaduncan at 11:44 PM on March 6, 2013


Marussia did have Maria de Villota as a test driver but she was involved in a freak accident involving her F1 car suddenly accelerating into a truck and lost an eye.

The investigation showed data that there was no sudden acceleration. She just wasn't familiar with the car or controls and couldn't hit neutral or get to the hand clutch in time and the brakes didn't overpower the engine on fast idle (around 6000rpm). The presence of the truck was stupid, in hindsight, but not something you'd think you'd have to worry about normally. They hadn't considered the difficulties of an inexperienced driver trying to find the controls of a very complicated car with the wheel on full lock, it seems. Very, very unfortunate accident.

There's two drivers per team, and they are also racing against each other so any individual driver weakness would be quickly exposed.

When you have a team mate, this would be almost instantaneous. You can't blame the car if your team mate is several seconds faster than you. I think people underestimate just how far off the pace an even only slightly lesser skilled driver would be. Even the poor F1 drivers are incredibly good.

Maria was another driver who was good enough to drive in various other series, but couldn't make the cut for even a Marussia drive.

Also, she was only scheduled for straight line testing, and with the total lack of budget Marussia have, it's more than likely she even had to bring money to the team for that opportunity - she is a pretty terrible driver. I'd put Danica above her, to be honest.
posted by Brockles at 7:14 AM on March 7, 2013


He was 6'1" and weighed about 185.

That's pretty fit, or at least points to a certain level of slimness which may indicate a body suitable for auto racing which requires a hell of a lot of endurance.

Race cars drivers are fit, but they are not elite physical specimens. It is a bit of a workout to drive a stick car, but not like running a marathon.

... not surprising given that the physical endurance required to drive a Formula One race is not dissimilar to that required to run a marathon.

Source

This means I ran a faster half marathon than Jeff Johnson...without training for it. Believe me, I am not a top athlete, or even a middle third athlete.

Are you running one every week or every 2 weeks? Do you run 18 to 40 marathons a year and still get the same time?
posted by juiceCake at 8:33 PM on March 12, 2013


That 6'1" comment about Dale Earnhart was specifically about NASCAR not being Formula One.

Are you running one every week or every 2 weeks? Do you run 18 to 40 marathons a year and still get the same time?

Umm... I think if Mental Wimp did that, their time would be a) better and b) consistent. See Eddie Izzard, even.

Amusingly, this whole marathon derail (which is somehow about proving that women are obviously physically incapable of racing at a high level and that there's no sexism involved) has ignored the fact that distance runners are pretty small. Mo Farah is 5'9", 143. Paula Radcliffe is 5'8", 119. 5'8" is certainly taller than the average British woman, but she's small in every other sense.
posted by hoyland at 6:12 AM on March 13, 2013


That 6'1" comment about Dale Earnhart was specifically about NASCAR not being Formula One.

Yes, of course. It was also a reference to fitness level as if some who is 6'1" and weighs only 185lbs is unfit. That's a pretty low weight compared to people of the same height who are not at all fit.

Umm... I think if Mental Wimp did that, their time would be a) better and b) consistent. See Eddie Izzard, even.

Possibly. The point is a driver enters a marathon once or twice a year and gets said result, all the while doing something that take the fitness of a marathon runner up to 30 or so times a year. Different disciplines, similar fitness. Now if a marathon runner who runs 30 marathons a year hops into a race twice a year, will his lap times be at the very top level of the sport?

Amusingly, this whole marathon derail (which is somehow about proving that women are obviously physically incapable of racing at a high level and that there's no sexism involved)

It certainly isn't that at all to me and others. It's simply about comparing levels of fitness and having been around autoracing for years, comparisons to running marathons are extremely common.

...has ignored the fact that distance runners are pretty small

So are most racing drivers.
posted by juiceCake at 7:57 AM on March 13, 2013


When you have a team mate, this would be almost instantaneous. You can't blame the car if your team mate is several seconds faster than you.

*coughs* Luca Badoer *coughs*

Did I say that? I guess I meant to say that it's a big jump from even full testing to performing in a seat.
posted by jaduncan at 8:06 AM on March 13, 2013


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