The huge smiles on the faces of NASCAR fans across the country following the epic CWTS season finale were quickly replaced by looks of utter bewilderment and complete disgust.
What caused such a drastic and sudden change in emotions? Well, it was the result of retired NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb’s ignorant statement regarding five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson on Fox Sports Live after the race. McNabb said “Do I think he’s an athlete? Absolutely not.” He then went on to say, “He sits in a car and drives. That’s not athletic.”
It didn’t take long for social media and Twitter specifically to explode with irate race fans and members of the racing community slamming McNabb to the ground for his comments.
NASCAR Nation Reacts
Jimmie Johnson: The debate continues… Everyone is entitled to an opinion. #DriversAreAthletes
Kyle Larson: “Donovan McNabb is a moron. Says Jimmie Johnson isn’t an athlete because he doesn’t do anything active, just drives a car….I’d like to see him drive a stock car for 500 miles.”
“Donovan McNabb must be mad he never won a championship and Jimmie just keeps winning them over and over again.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr: “Wow Donovan McNabb really? Got to b an idiot. I’d like to see him keep up with Jimmie Johnson in a workout. And drive our cars for 500miles.”
Jeff Burton: We need a cup owner to provide a current car, go to Bristol,put McNabb in for 500 laps by himself. Then ask if drivers are athletes #educate
Jeff Gordon: 20+ yr debate. @NASCAR driver athlete? Never met a “athlete” who actually drove a racecar that doubted it. Care to take a ride Donovan?
Sherry Pollex (MTJ Girlfriend): “Wow McNabb just said Jimmie Johnson isn’t an athlete on Fox Sports 1. Ummm what?!! The guys a machine. #smdh #cantfixstupid”
Jeffrey Earnhardt: “Can we find a way to put Donovan McNabb in a racecar for saying Jimmie Johnson isn’t a athlete? Anyone’s thoughts?”
The terms Donovan McNabb, #NASCAR & #PeopleMoreAthleticThanDonovanMcNabb quickly began trending nationwide on Twitter. Later, Fox Sports Live tweeted “Any race fans on Twitter tonight? Tough to find a more passionate fan base!” My favorite tweet of the night came from @TheMiniChad who said “well done Donovan McNabb – you did something we all thought impossible. you brought every nascar fan on twitter come to JJ’s side!”
Here is full video of the that statement that has the racing community so angry: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWVmEvgByto&feature=youtu.be
This isn’t McNabb’s first NASCAR related blunder either. Earlier this year, he mistakenly congratulated Danica Patrick on her Daytona 500 victory when she had in fact, only earned pole position for the race proving that this guy has no prior knowledge of the sport and therefore, shouldn’t be talking about it on national television. Then there was the infamous Golden Tate incident a couple years back as well.
McNabb Responds To NASCAR Nation’s Anger: “Glad to see that you are watching Fox Sports Live. If you have any questions to what I said, look up the word and you will have your answer.”
The misconception that racecar drivers aren’t athletes has been an issue for a while. The problem is people have literally nothing to compare it to except for driving a street car on the highway at 60mph which obviously takes very little effort. In reality, there are no similarities between driving a street car and a racecar other than the fact they both have steering wheels and pedals. I’ve been in a racecar at speeds upwards of 170mph and let me tell you, there are no comparisons whatsoever to what you feel in a street car.
Is it a coincidence that arguably the fittest driver in the garage is the most successful? No, it is not. It’s a sport that requires you to endure temperatures similar to that of the Sahara Desert inside the cockpit. You need to have reflexes on par with a fighter pilot’s and an endurance that rivals an Olympic track runner. In a race, one needs to maintain an extremely high level of alertness for three to four consecutive hours while at the same time fighting G-forces that are constantly pulling your arms down and putting a fair amount of pressure on your chest and legs.
Oh, and occasionally fighting the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning as well. You hang onto 3,000 pound machines that are about as controllable as an incensed bull, inches away from your closest competitor and knowing very well that any lapse in judgement could spell the end of your day, possibly your career and in the most severe circumstances, your life. There are no errors or fouls allowed in NASCAR; you must be perfect at all times or face catastrophic consequences.
The hand-eye coordination needed to control the car at the absolute edge of its capabilities and at breakneck speeds is just like the hand-eye coordination needed to hit, catch and throw a ball except for the obvious fact that the stakes are much higher at 200mph. How about breaks? In football, plays last no longer than a few seconds and baseball players get to sit on a bench for about half the game. In NASCAR, you’re only break usually is a few minutes worth of caution.
Lets focus on physical toughness now. We’ve seen drivers race with broken ribs, concussions, dislocated shoulders, faces swollen to the point where they can’t see and a multitude of other injuries while some players in other sports sit out due to a sprained thumb. Drivers have collapsed following races due to sheer exhaustion on numerous occasions and you are going to try to tell me that it takes no physical effort to race in NASCAR?
If NASCAR drivers aren’t athletes, then I don’t know what an athlete is.
Jimmie Johnson’s Training Routine: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=9984515