Are NASCAR Drivers Really Athletes?

A few months ago, NASCAR driver and cycling enthusiast Jamie McMurray rode the Assault on Mt. Mitchell, a mass participation cycling ride that covers 103 miles and includes over 11,000 feet of climbing.


Technically The Assault is not a race, but throw in hundreds of Type-A cyclists — you don’t enter events like that unless you’re fairly driven — and where you finish definitely matters, especially to you. Jamie completed the course in less than six hours, finishing 22nd out of 532 riders.


Does that make Jamie an athlete? On the bike, absolutely.


In a race car, no.


Then again, during the ride Jamie’s heart rate averaged 148 beats per minute for 5 hours and 54 minutes. (That’s just the average; his heart rate spiked at 168.)


Understandable, right? It’s a brutal ride, and since Jamie’s heart rate is relatively low even for fitness enthusiasts, averaging 148 bpm means he was grinding.


Now compare that to his heart rate data collected at the Loudon, N.H. race in mid-July. For 3.5 hours his heart rate averaged 144 bpm and spiked at 171 bpm, even higher than on the bike.


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