Essential Traits of the Best NASCAR Drivers

Anyone who thinks that driving a NASCAR race car simply means speeding around an oval making only left turns would be seriously mistaken. The NASCAR Cup Series is comprised of 42 professional athletes, most at (or nearing) the apex of their careers. 

While many NASCAR drivers make it look fairly easy, the essential components that define the best NASCAR drivers include more than just being the fastest. The best NASCAR drivers are highly skilled, with mental and physical prowess only matched by some of the best athletes around the world. 

So, what are the common, essential traits of the best NASCAR drivers?

Physical Endurance

Physical endurance is one’s ability to withstand arduous amounts of activity but end the race with the least amount of fatigue. Perhaps the most demanding aspect of drivers driving NASCAR is the sports’ physical impact. Most races cover 500 – 600 miles, with the race taking 3 to 4 hours. And with 38 races over the ten-month season, the reality is that physical endurance is a must-have. 

Physical Strength

NASCAR racing demands incredibly high levels of strength. A grueling race can leave a driver with burning arm muscles and a painful neck. With 200 miles of turns – with speeds exceeding 160 MPH, increased gravitation force means that the driver experiences a force 3-4 times its normal weight. This gravitation force is equivalent to 3Gs to 4Gs, which ultimately strains the driver’s upper body. For example – the average weight of an adult is 11 lbs. This means that the driver’s head would feel like it weighed 33 lbs. or more when racing through a turn. 

Lightning-Fast Reflexes

Lightning-fast reflexes are required to avoid an out-of-control competitor or help a NASCAR driver set the fastest lap. Professional NASCAR drivers become so attuned to their cars that they can detect every crack or bump on the NASCAR racetrack. Professional drivers learn to detect how each of the race car’s tires rides around each turn. Experienced drivers anticipate how the car will slide as they apply full throttle. 

There is no one physical trait that makes a NASCAR driver faster than the competition. Most professional drivers find the edge – that is, faster reflexes – by honing the connection that exists between the car and driver over thousands of laps. 

An Inherent Racer’s Instinct

The racer’s instinct is likely the most challenging trait to quantify, but it is undoubtedly the easiest to identify. 

Also known as the racer’s edge, ambition in Motorsports manifests through a driver’s instinct – in other words, knowing which move to make at the right time. In a sport where a win can be measured in thousandths of a second, the driver’s instinct/edge/ambition can make all the difference at the checkered flag. 

The Take-Away

The qualities of the best NASCAR drivers include combinations of the above-noted characteristics, plus other unique qualities and talents of their own. These different qualities may consist of a killer-competitive spirit, mental fortitude, business aptitude, and confidence in their team and their own abilities.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

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